Soapbox: Sled dogs deserve better summer care
August 10, 2008
Last Thursday’s front-cover picture in the Aspen Daily News, titled “Dog Daze,” inspired us to write this. The picture shows a Krabloonik Kennel dog sleeping, with his head out of his dog house and a chain around his neck. Unfortunately, many of us forget, or choose not to recognize, that this is the daily life of the Krabloonik dog. The goal of writing this column is to express our concern for the wellbeing and care of the Krabloonik dogs year-round.
We live in a dog-loving community, and many of you have written wonderful letters expressing your concerns over Krabloonik. We too have concerns and have, therefore, spent a great deal of time learning about the dynamics of operating a dog-sledding business. We have spoken to several mushers, the Department of Agriculture and the Colorado Humane Society. We have familiarized ourselves with the state regulations in regard to a dog-breeding operation, as Krabloonik is currently classified. We by no means are claiming to be experts in the dog-sledding business. Our intent is to collect information and gain community support in hopes of improving the quality of life of the Krabloonik dogs.
One of the main concerns is the quality of care for these dogs outside of the winter months (i.e., May to November). During the winter, when the mushers are at Krabloonik, we conclude that the dogs are better cared for, as the mushers look after each of their assigned dogs. Accordingly, they have stated to us that they exercise the dogs, feed them and take care of their wounds. They express that the dogs have a passion for pulling the sleds and get excited during this time of the year.
The problem is that the mushers all leave for other jobs in the spring. This presents a dilemma, in that the dogs no longer have a team leader to look after them. With no sleds to pull and no mushers to oversee the dogs, their lives come to a halt, with just a chain around their neck. This pattern of life can go on for several months. This is not the norm for a dog-sledding business. The line of thinking that the dogs need to rest and stay chained during the off-season and summer months is false.
The mushers we spoke to stressed the importance of yearround exercise. It is critical for the dogs’ physical, mental and social well-being. We cannot write with certainty that the dogs at Krabloonik are never exercised from May until November, but we have never witnessed it in our repeated visits to check on the dogs. What we have witnessed is the dogs walking in repeated, endless circles, a sign of the traumatic effects of years of neglect on a chain.
The Department of Agriculture has a 60-minute exercise regulation for breeding facilities; however, Krabloonik is exempt because the dogs are not in permanent enclosures. Without any laws in effect, the owner is not required to take the dogs off the chain or exercise them. Even euthanasia (or “culling”), by means of shooting a dog in the head, is legal. From a legal standpoint little has been done to help these harmless animals. So where do we go from here?
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We would like to open the doors of communication between the owner of Krabloonik, Dan MacEachen, and the community to better understand the rationale for the dogs’ current living conditions. Krabloonik has an opportunity to be a wonderful establishment in our community. However, the dogs that figuratively and literally carry the business must be appropriately cared for and respected. We must come to an agreement and solution so that the dogs are exercised daily throughout the year and have ample time off their chains. In addition, not addressed in this letter is the issue of culling ” can we be assured that this practice has been eliminated?
The people of the community have a right to answers. This has been a controversial topic for quite some time, and we have an opportunity to move forward for the benefit and well-being of the dogs. We ask you, the community, to please continue to write letters, make phone calls and adopt rescued Krabloonik dogs at the Aspen Animal Shelter. If you would like to help or get more involved, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Please don’t forget the dogs ” they are waiting on their chains for someone to come and help.