Krabloonik buyers winning trust of animal activists | AspenTimes.com

Krabloonik buyers winning trust of animal activists

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The Krabloonik dog-sledding operation may soon have new owners, leading animal-rights activists to believe that the sled dogs are in good hands.

Danny and Gina Phillips came on board a year ago after owning their own dog-sledding business in Sandpoint, Idaho, for 10 years. They were named directors of operations in May, and in September, they signed an agreement with owner and founder Dan MacEachen to purchase the business. Now they are waiting on the town of Snowmass Village to reassign its lease on the property.

The council will hear the change-of-ownership proposal during the regular council meeting Dec. 1. The town plans to include the proposal in its council packet, which will be released Nov. 27 at http://www.tosv.com.

MacEachen has entrusted the Phillipses with full control of Krabloonik's management. The Phillipses have implemented many changes that members of the organization Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs have been advocating for over the years, instilling confidence in the group that standards are rising at Krabloonik.

"I think they've done a great job," said Voices member Bill Fabrocini. "Danny and Gina have a good interest in what's best for the dogs."

The changes made include enhancing a summer exercise schedule that MacEachen started, an organized adoption program and a spay/neuter program sponsored by the nonprofit Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter. Dogs that are available for adoption now reside in their own section of the kennel where the public can visit them, and they aren't tethered to their houses during the day like the other animals.

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All of the dogs now have shavings in their houses to provide insulation and are given snacks during the day and massages when they return from a sled tour. Every animal is tagged, and veterinary records are matched to the identification, something the kennel was asked to correct before the Phillipses arrived.

The Phillipses say they're "joining forces" with Voices. The organization has helped deliver adopted dogs to their new homes, taking some as far as Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Voices is helping the couple determine how they can reduce the amount of time the dogs have to be on their tethers.

Despite their confidence in Danny and Gina, Fabrocini and other members of Voices are hesitant to throw their full support behind the business because MacEachen still holds the note. MacEachen was charged with eight counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty in December 2013, and he is scheduled to stand trial in May.

"I definitely think they're more open to raising the standard of care," said Voices member Leigh Vogel. "It doesn't negate that Dan MacEachen is still the owner. There's a fear factor."

Fabrocini said it has never been Voices' goal to put Krabloonik out of business, but the members don't have faith in MacEachen, who they allege is abusive and neglectful.

"We just don't think Dan MacEachen will raise the standard of care," Fabrocini said.

Through a land swap with MacEachen several years ago, the town acquired the Krabloonik parcel and agreed to lease it to him for $10 a year. Now, the Phillipses are waiting for the Town Council to reassign the lease to them.

The Phillipses say they need to complete the transfer and the purchase so that they can obtain their liquor license, liability insurance and kennel licensing for the season.

"We're totally in a stop with everything until the town approves this," Danny Phillips said.

Mayor Markey Butler recently said she would discuss rescheduling the item with the town manager and her fellow council members. However, it isn't clear yet whether that will happen or what meeting it would be scheduled for.

Once that discussion happens, though, Butler wants to add some requirements to the lease regarding the animals' care. A branch of the state Department of Agriculture monitors small-scale dog breeders such as Krabloonik, but Butler thinks the town could do more.

"Having gone through many surveys with the state of Colorado in health care, they look for minimum standards to be met and not best practices," said Butler, who works in the health care industry. "I would want the theme to be best practices."

Fabrocini called that an "excellent idea."

"It should be everything that we talked about in the past," such as rules regarding euthanasia, breeding and identification, he said.

"Danny and Gina probably don't need those things," he added, but he said that having rules on the record in case the couple ever sells Krabloonik as well as grounds for enforcement will be helpful.

"There's been so much negativity," Danny Phillips said. "The negativity affects the dogs. We need positive things out there in the community. It's all about the dogs."

jill@snowmasssun.com

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