Snowmass council delays action while dog abuse case continues
February 17, 2014
The Snowmass Village Town Council is waiting to see the outcome of a criminal case involving the owner of Krabloonik before considering some action in regard to allegations of abuse at the sled-dog kennel.
The 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office began investigating the allegations in November. At a Dec. 16 council meeting, Mayor Bill Boineau did not allow representatives of the activist group Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs to speak, saying that the council would schedule a related agenda item after the investigation.
The district attorney went on to charge Dan MacEachen with eight misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, and the council is continuing to delay scheduling an agenda item until the case is completed. MacEachen is scheduled to address the charges on Feb. 18.
Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs sent out a call to action on Thursday requesting concerned members of the public to email Boineau and the other council members and ask when a public process regarding Krabloonik will occur. Boineau said he received hundreds of emails, but he said Thursday that the council has no grounds to enforce changes at Krabloonik from a legal standpoint.
"If it were my kennel, yeah, there are a lot of things that these guys are saying that I would do if it were my kennel," Boineau said. "Can I demand that Dan make some changes? Our attorney says we don't have any grounds to do anything."
Kelly Vaughn, town director of communications, explained Town Attorney John Dresser's viewpoint. The town leases land to MacEachen for Krabloonik's operations. The lease contract includes a condition that Krabloonik must comply with all federal, state and municipal laws.
"Will the next step with Krabloonik be black-and-white due to the trial's outcome? Or will it be less black-and-white?" Vaughn said. "If the latter, council has publicly voiced a willingness to engage in a discussion on ways to improve conditions for the dogs, or determine what measures might be appropriate at a policy level."
Councilman Jason Haber said he thinks there are ways the town could take action that don't relate to the court case.
"I think some of this can move forward regardless of where the criminal case is and, frankly, totally separate in a way from anything related to Krabloonik," Haber said. "I think it's raised a question of whether we have adequate laws in place. … It seems like it's been difficult for us to adequately discern whether there have been violations."
Haber and Councilman Chris Jacobson said that Dresser advised and Boineau requested that the elected officials not engage in public discourse about Krabloonik until after the case was resolved.
"There was a notion that made sense to me in the idea that if you have a private company like an oil company, or whatever type of company it is, and it has a lease arrangement or financial arrangement with the town, … one should be cautious not to be seen as degrading the value of that business in any way," Jacobson said.
After making that request, however, Boineau went on to make public comments, including writing letters to Aspen's newspapers and talking to a reporter from 9 News, Jacobson said.
"My vantage point on it is that it's emblematic of a lack of public process, a lack of transparency and a desire to shut down public comment or even internal debate amongst the council," Jacobson said. "We are now seeing it in repeated exercises."
The council recently discussed and approved a contract with Town Manager Gary Suiter behind closed doors before adding a public-agenda item for Monday after an inquiry by this newspaper. Jacobson and Haber voted against ratifying the contract.
If MacEachen is convicted, the town will have a right to terminate its lease with him.
"If the courts determine that there is abuse, what is that abuse, and how can that be rectified and make sure that it doesn't happen again?" Boineau said.
If the charges are cleared, Boineau said he would like to return to a plan that the town was pursuing prior to the district attorney's investigation.
"I think if Dan is cleared, it would be my hope that we could go back to looking at a group of people consisting of veterinarians, somebody from Dan's place, a couple citizens … that could say, 'Hey, these are some recommended things that would help the animals be more comfortable,'" Boineau said. "'Where can we go today that can help these animals?'"
Voices is proposing a regulatory body, approved by the Town Council, that would oversee things such as which dogs are euthanized and when, breeding, and offseason exercise and veterinary care.
"A fair and knowlegable regulatory committee with members having equal say in the issues listed above would add weight to important processes," the group said in a statement. "We strongly believe that this is a fair and balanced approach that community members will support."