Krabloonik opponents soften tone
September 22, 2008
SNOWMASS ” The Voices for Krabloonik website has changed its once accusatory tone to one that promises to work with the dog-sled operation’s owner “to make strides in a positive direction.”
The homepage’s title now reads: “Creating a Higher Standard of Care for Krabloonik Sled Dogs. A Work In Progress in Snowmass Village … YOU CAN HELP.” And while the website still cites a need for changes, it no longer refers to Krabloonik as a concentration camp for dogs or features a letter from a dog named “Hopeless,” who complains about being tethered.
The new stance came after the sides held numerous meetings. Relations between Krabloonik kennel owner Dan MacEachen and some of his most vocal detractors have firmly taken a turn away from opposition and toward finding common ground, said Seth Sachson, Aspen Animal Shelter director and a Krabloonik advisory committee member.
“We’ve judged [MacEachen], but now we’re past that phase,” he said. “Now that we’re done judging him and he’s agreed to work with us, we’ve got to work with him.”
Sachson and Voices for Krabloonik co-founder Lee Ann Vold said the advisory committee is focused on convincing MacEachen of the importance of public perception. And MacEachen has said he’s educating the committee about the reasons for his practices.
Here is the current status of the 10 changes requested by Voices for Krabloonik, as reported by several of the parties and the minutes from the most recent meeting:
1. Rectify all nine Pet Animal Care Facilities Act violations cited against Krabloonik from the Colorado Department of Agriculture immediately:
MacEachen has said that there were six recent violations, not nine, and that all but two have been addressed and the evidence faxed to the state veterinarian. The two issues he has not addressed are:
a. The chains average 5 1/2 feet, not 6: MacEachen argues that lengthening the chains would increase the likelihood of fighting and uncontrolled breeding. It would also make it difficult or impossible to walk a dog down the aisle without it being attacked by other dogs, Sachson said. MacEachen believes the state agriculture agency, on a recent visit, agreed.
b. Lack of perimeter fencing: MacEachen said he has not had an issue with predators entering the kennel area in more than 30 years, and that the state veterinarian agreed a perimeter fence would do no good.
2. Improve shelter, water and feeding conditions:
a. Water: MacEachen has agreed to replace the rusted or damaged restaurant cans used to water the dogs with new ones. He has also agreed to have his staff provide afternoon water to those dogs who have knocked their cans over.
b. Feeding: Although Vold said she now understands that fasting the dogs one day a week in the summer is common practice, she believes a small Sunday feeding could improve public perception of Krabloonik. According to notes from the meeting, MacEachen has agreed to look at a seven-day feeding schedule next summer.
c. Shelter: MacEachen said every dog has already received a new shelter within the past five years, after the state veterinarian requested that the dogs have houses, not just platforms.
3. Implement a regular exercise regime year-round, resulting in time off the chains:
Responding to MacEachen’s concerns that huskies who run in the summer months could get heatstroke, the advisory committee is examining the possibility of building a pond at Krabloonik ” though Sachson said he’s worried a pond might just turn into a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
The committee is also looking into a fenced-in area for the dogs to allow play. As only 15 compatible dogs can lawfully be in a supervised enclosure at one time, exercising all 260 could take a long time, noted MacEachen. But Sachson said he hopes that well-trained volunteers may be willing to help with the summer exercise program. All parties have noted that a fence and pond will take land and money.
Several committee members plan to put together a volunteer dog exercise program by next summer so that some of the older dogs can be exercised. MacEachen has agreed to move the older dogs to the top kennels so they can be accessed by volunteers. Sachson plans to bring MacEachen example waivers. He praised MacEachen for his willingness to undergo the liability of a volunteer walking program.
“I would be reluctant to do that,” he said.
4. Document and control the population and breeding of the dogs:
MacEachen said he already does this. Sachson agreed, though he noted that there was one unwanted litter at the business this season.
5. Implement a spay-neuter program:
MacEachen said he’s reluctant to spay and neuter all his puppies, and Sachson sympathized, noting that it is sometimes not apparent which of them will become breedable lead dogs until they are older.
“He knows what he’s doing,” said Sachson of MacEachen’s breeding program. “As long as he controls his breeding, he should be able to breed as he wants to.”
Vold said she still thinks a spay-neuter program would improve the dogs’ health, and in response, MacEachen has agreed to look into spaying and neutering some of the dogs, he said.
6. Ensure proper and timely veterinary care for ill and injured dogs:
The state veterinarian examined all the dogs on Sept. 3, and local veterinarian Scott Dolginow examined them Wednesday. According to the minutes of Wednesday’s meeting, MacEachen agreed to work with Dolginow to implement a program whereby veterinarians, and possibly veterinarian technicians, do regularly scheduled walk throughs and check-ups, and maintain records on the dogs’ health.
7. Provide socialization for dogs:
MacEachen noted that puppies are always allowed to wander the grounds and socialize with other dogs until they grow old enough to breed. He also noted that as staff feed and water the dogs, they are socializing with them. Allowing visitors to wander the grounds also promotes socialization, he said. Ultimately, he noted that his sled dogs have to be, and are, socialized, or they couldn’t run on teams. Sachson agreed that the dogs are well-socialized to be sled dogs.
8. Additional, year-round, educated staff for the care of the dogs and their surroundings:
MacEachen noted that while he’d love to be able to hire additional staff in the summer, in the meantime he’s retrained his staff to do additional tasks like refill water cans. Sachson said that he thinks volunteers may ultimately be able to provide the additional summer care requested by the advisory committee.
9. Create a retirement-rescue program for old or non-sledding dogs:
Sachson has already created such a program through the Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter. He’d like to expand the visibility of that program and will ask MacEachen to put out a donation can for the program at Krabloonik.
10. Establish an advisory committee to monitor year-round care and conditions of the dogs and their environment:
This is the committee currently meeting weekly with MacEachen.
MacEachen and Vold both said room for improvement remains. And Vold noted she’d like to work on a very high standard of care for the dogs. But it will take time, money and effort, she noted. And all involved already appear to be contributing time and effort.
“It’s going to come down to money, really,” said Vold.