Dan MacEachen, owner of the embattled Krabloonik dog-sledding operation in Snowmass Village, made his first appearance in Pitkin County Court with an attorney Tuesday to address eight misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty filed last month by District Attorney Sherry Caloia.
Or not to address them, as his attorney, Greg Greer, sought and received a postponement of the plea hearing that was scheduled in Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely’s court. The arraignment was rescheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 18.
Amid the presence of Denver television news reporters and a few critics of MacEachen’s business practices, Greer routinely waived formal advisement of the charges.
One bit of business was accomplished: Greer and Caloia told Fernandez-Ely that they had come to terms on the costs of food, shelter and veterinary attention for eight dogs that were seized by the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Dec. 12. The bill, tallied through Tuesday, came to $4,516.32, and the arrangement called for MacEachen to provide a payment to Caloia, who will then turn it over to Colorado Animal Rescue, of Glenwood Springs, the animal shelter housing the dogs.
The eight Class 1 misdemeanor charges relate to each dog that was seized as part of the District Attorney’s Office investigation into the alleged cruelty at Krabloonik. The bill for the care of the impounded dogs had been set as MacEachen’s bond in the case. Should MacEachen win the case, he may ask for a return of the payment, Caloia said last month.
As the elected district attorney for three counties, Caloia typically does not handle the Pitkin County Court docket in Aspen. Her involvement Tuesday was considered outside the norm, and she also dealt with other misdemeanor matters usually tackled by Deputy District Attorney Jason Slothouber.
After the brief proceeding, MacEachen and Greer left the courthouse quickly, and Greer responded with a quick “no comment” as reporters sought interviews.
Caloia announced the charges on Dec. 18. Her motion concerning the bond stated that prior to being impounded, the dogs were inspected by a “neutral veterinarian.” The inspection revealed that six of the dogs were severely malnourished and two required “serious veterinarian care.”
Leigh Vogel, representing the nonprofit group Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs, spoke with reporters outside the courthouse. The organization, founded in 2008, says it has received firsthand reports of animal cruelty at Krabloonik dating back to the 1970s.
MacEachen pleaded no contest to an animal-cruelty charge in 1988, which resulted in a deferred judgment, with the charge being dismissed upon completion of probation.
Vogel passed out printed information questioning the town of Snowmass Village for continuing to serve as Krabloonik’s landlord, providing a long-term property lease for Krabloonik. The printed information also seeks answers from Mayor Bill Boineau, alleging that he has promised a “robust public process” to examine the Krabloonik lease but has failed to move forward with that process.
The information sheet asks 12 questions of Boineau, beginning, “Are you and will you be supporting Mr. MacEachen and his business while the animal cruelty charges are pending?” It ends with, “What plans do you have in the event that Mr. MacEachen is convicted of one or more charges?”
Vogel told reporters Tuesday that the group is not opposed to dog sledding on the whole.
“We’ve seen dog sledding done in kind, compassionate ways,” she said, “but these dogs are treated very harshly, as if they are running in the Iditarod. (Krabloonik) is a local tourist attraction, and there’s no need for this.”
Boineau could not be reached immediately for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Snowmass Sun editor Jill Beathard contributed to this story.