Aspen animal activists mull Krabloonik purchase
January 15, 2009
ASPEN ” The Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter board is considering a purchase of Snowmass Village-based Krabloonik kennels, the dog-sledding operation and the restaurant.
The organization’s president, Seth Sachson, said Wednesday that Krabloonik owner Don MacEachen has not made the “improvements necessary” to appease the Krabloonik Advisory Committee, an offshoot of a organization that formed after complaints about the treatment of the Krabloonik animals arose.
“After months and months and months of discussion, it seems the easiest and most logical solution is for our nonprofit to take over,” Sachson said.
Sachson appeared confident about raising funds to buy Krabloonik, though he would not disclose the potential purchase price.
“I’ve spoken with numerous people who have verbally agreed to contribute to the cause and I feel confident that we will be able to raise the funds necessary,” he said. The Town of Snowmass Village owns the land underneath Krabloonik, so the nonprofit would only be purchasing the business and buildings.
While MacEachen said no offer has been made, he said he has discussed the possibility with members of the watchdog group Voices of Krabloonik.
The purchase discussions come after public outcry about the Krabloonik operation, which provides sled rides and operates an upscale Snowmass Village restaurant. Some residents have complained over the years that the Alaskan sled dogs are treated poorly, though a veterinary examination in October found them to generally be in good health.
Last fall, a group of local residents calling themselves Voices for Krabloonik banded together to address a variety of concerns. An offshoot of the group, the Krabloonik Advisory Committee, has met regularly with MacEachen since September 2008 to discuss issues ranging from establishing a summer exercise routine for the dogs to implementing a spay and neuter program.
Citing a need to update citizens on current progress, Voices for Krabloonik issued a press release on Wednesday. In it, the group criticized MacEachen for failing to establish an escrow fund to ensure improvements and described possible remedies.
“Voices is at a Crossroads. We want to work with Dan, but all comes down to whether Dan is willing and able to make the necessary improvements,” stated the release. “With the sledding season ending in a few months, we need the funding in place.
Otherwise, these dogs go through another off-season on five-foot chains, tethered to their wooden shelters.”
In response, MacEachen explained setting aside money for capital improvements is challenging this winter, with business down approximately 20 percent.
“That’s through December. January is going to be worse,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of bills to pay before I start putting money in escrow,” he said.
Voices co-founder Lee Ann Vold said the committee is pursuing other options to cure the issues it sees, including a petition to ask the Snowmass Village Town Council to establish mandatory off-chain time. Still, she said she would prefer that Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter buy Krabloonik.
According to board members, if the purchase were to go through, Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter would continue to operate Krabloonik as a kennel and restaurant. However, it would likely shorten the two-hour dogsled rides to what Sachson described as an “educational ride.” Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter also would improve living conditions for the dogs and reduce the number of dogs at Krabloonik.
Ultimately, Sachson and fellow board member Anne Gurchick imagined Krabloonik becoming an “animal sanctuary.” It would rescue stray animals, but might also provide services such as a sledding education center and a kids’ day camp, they said.
“But again,” wrote Gurchick in an e-mail, “we’re only in an exploratory phase. That’s it. There’s still a lot of work to be done before we can even consider moving forward.”