Snowmass council hears howls of protest from Krabloonik critics
September 9, 2008
SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” “Cruel. Inhumane. Unacceptable. Unequivocal. And it’s in your backyard.”
So read an advertisement that recently appeared in newspapers in Aspen and Snowmass Village, sponsored by a group calling themselves Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs.
The ad was part of a campaign that packed the Snowmass Town Council on Monday with citizens anxious to address what critics have decried as inadequate care for the sled dogs at Krabloonik.
The operation’s 260 dogs provide visitors with a dog-sledding experience and accompanying restaurant during the winter months. Owner Dan Machean leases the land from Snowmass Village for $10 a year, and his current lease is for 20 years.
Since the issue was not on the agenda, citizens had a limited time to speak. However, they convinced council members to request a report from their animal control officers, police force and town manager. Once the report is ready, the issue will be placed on a future agenda and fully discussed.
On the Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs blogsite, citizens were encouraged to bring signs to the meeting bearing such messages as “Shame on Snowmass,” “Boycott Krabloonik,” “Boo Krabloonik,” “Nix Krabloonik,” and “Tortured Dogs = Expensive Dinners.” Two signs made it to the meeting, one reading “Krabloonik Dogs Beg For Mercy” and another stating “Dogs Don’t Work.”
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Holly Tarry, the Colorado director for the Humane Society of the United States, said that the more she learns about Krabloonik, the more she thinks there may be violations of state criminal statutes at the facility.
Tarry wrote a letter to the Town Council alleging the facility has a history of violating nine minimum standards for dog care. She said she came to this conclusion after researching Krabloonik’s Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) file.
Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs focused on possible remedies, providing a handout that suggested a three-phase plan to correct the alleged inadequate care. Their requests include daily exercise, water bowls that can be secured to the dogs’ shelter and daily feedings ” including Sundays, which they allege are not in the current feeding schedule.
Bill Fabrocini, part of Voices for Krabloonik Dogs, spoke about the amount of research that had gone into the suggested plan. He stated that all the mushers and sled-dog operators they spoke with emphasized how much time, money and effort it takes to care for sled dogs properly.
Owner Dan Machean, given a moment to respond to his critics, said that he had spent between $2.5 million and $3 million to “get to” the current lease.
“Everything I do is for the dogs,” he said.
That comment was met by a chorus of “oh yeahs” from the audience, prompting Mayor Douglas Mercatoris to request that the audience not respond.
Machean also argued that the dogs are fed and cleaned regularly. And while he acknowledged that they do knock over the current cans he uses to give them water, he believed that the dogs were hydrated. He asked people to base their judgments on the level of hydration in the dogs, not the amount of water in the cans.
Machean also noted that the state had visited twice this year and had not cited him for any major infractions.
Councilwoman Sally Sparhawk wondered why the group had brought the issue to the press before bringing it to council.
“I would rather see more energy being put on addressing the situation ” not making a press fiasco out of this,” she said.
After the meeting, Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs member Lee Ann Vold said the group had gone to the press first because they worried that they needed to bring attention to the issue before Labor Day, when many of the area’s residents leave. Monday’s Snowmass Town Council meeting was after Labor Day, she noted.
“[The press was] the only way we could reach out to the public quickly,” she said.
Many residents at the meeting said they were surprised nothing was being done about the situation.
“I’m frankly embarrassed as a community member that this is going on,” said Snowmass Village resident Heather Stolz.
“Those dogs are suffering at this point while government is doing nothing,” said Dawn Shepard of Aspen. “It’s just shocking to me.”
Members of the group are scheduled to meet with Machean at 8 a.m. Tuesday. He said Monday night that while the standards the group had asked for before were “possibilities,” he was beginning to feel like the group just wanted to attack him.
Vold acknowledged that Machean may have felt attacked at the council meeting, but said it was important to update the public on the group’s stance.
“I don’t want it to be a step back,” she said. “Dan has been agreeable. We just need to know there’s going to be follow-through.”
Using their blogsite, voicesforthekrabloonikdogs.blogspot.com, the group has encouraged 5,000 people to sign a petition, according to Fabrocini. The blogsite also provides information about donating to the cause and contact information for Machean, Snowmass council members and the local press.
It also asks people to donate cans to ensure the dogs have clean water. The old cans reportedly are rusting, critics say.