The new director of operations at the Krabloonik dog-sledding operation plans to spay and neuter the dogs, downsize the pack and open the Snowmass Village kennel to visitors in the summer.
Those are among the changes the fundraising arm of the Aspen Animal Shelter announced in a statement, which was issued Saturday. The spaying and neutering of 100 dogs at Krabloonik is scheduled to be completed this year. The first group of animals received the procedures on April 30 and May 1 at Aspen Animal Hospital, and the plan is to continue with dogs that will be put up for adoption or that Krabloonik does not plan to use for breeding, said Danny Phillips, Krabloonik director of operations.
Phillips, who started at Krabloonik as kennel manager in late November, has a goal of reducing the number of sled dogs from 250 to between 175 and 200, starting by adopting out at least 50 dogs. Phillips said he and owner Dan MacEachen began discussing downsizing when he came on, and Phillips created a list of dogs that could be adopted out after working with them all winter.
“We decided as a group up at Krabloonik that it’s just time to kind of regroup ... find out how many dogs we actually need for what we’re doing and just downsize some, make it more manageable,” Phillips said.
In the past, there was enough demand for sled rides that all 250 dogs were always being driven, he said.
“This year was a little slower,” Phillips said. With a smaller pack, Krabloonik will “make sure every dog gets out” once again, he said.
For people involved at the Aspen Animal Shelter, spaying and neutering the sled dogs fulfills a variety of goals. It meets their mission of combatting pet overpopulation, and it improves the health of the animals that receive the procedure.
“I’ve taken over 80 sled dogs from Krabloonik over the years,” said Seth Sachson, executive director of the Aspen Animal Shelter and Aspen Boarding Kennel. “I would say eight out of 10 females that we take that are over 7 years old have mammary tumors. We’re also helping to prevent cancer in the dogs.”
Reducing the population also will “directly increase the quality of care for the remaining dogs,” Sachson said.
MacEachen has been charged with eight counts of animal cruelty, two related to veterinary care and six to nourishment of eight dogs seized from the property by the District Attorney’s Office in December. A jury trial in the case has been set for October.
“Over the years, Dan MacEachen has always been resistant to change, and obviously he’s been getting tried in the newspapers and media as well as in a true court,” Sachson said. “He decided to hire Danny Phillips, who mushed at Krabloonik a number of years ago, to be his manager, and I think it was a really smart move because Danny has made improvements necessary for the quality of life for the dogs as well as changes that are making the general public more at ease.”
Phillips, who with his wife formerly owned his own dog-sledding operation, also is opening the kennel for twice-daily tours starting in June. He’s working with the shelter to hold adoption fairs and open houses to introduce the public to the dogs he’s making available, which will range in age.
Phillips also will continue the exercise program MacEachen started after pressure from the community several years ago. The program has come to be a model for other mushers in the industry, Phillips said.
“We just really want to make Krabloonik that community place where the schools can come out and see the tradition of dog sledding and just really uphold everything good within the community’s eyes,” Phillips said. “Dog-sled mushers aren’t usually social people, but for some reason I end up being both, and I can kind of portray what’s really going on out here.”