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Adoption Fair, changes, highlighted at Krabloonik

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times
There's obvious affection between Krabloonik director of operations Danny Phillips and one of his Alaskan Husky team dogs, Harley. Phillips arranged the first adoption fair at Krabloonik in Snowmass Village on Saturday. He's hoping to reduce the number of dogs at Krabloonik through adoptions from 250 to below 200 this year.
Megan Bauerle/The Aspen Times |

Saturday was a good day for anyone curious about what’s happening at the Krabloonik dog kennels to visit the business and see it for themselves during the first public adoption fair at the kennels in Snowmass Village.

Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen has been under fire for many years by animal-rights activists and others concerning alleged ill treatment of the kennels’ sled dogs. MacEachen has been charged with eight counts of animal cruelty, two related to veterinary care and six to nourishment of eight dogs seized from the property by the District Attorney’s Office in December. A jury trial in the case has been set for October.

MacEachen hired Danny Phillips to take over as kennel manager and director of operations in late November, and Phillips has been working diligently toward changing the way the animals are cared for at the business.

Phillips, who with his wife formerly owned his own dog-sledding operation in Idaho, have opened the kennel for twice-daily tours this summer and will continue to work toward reducing the size of the Krabloonik pack.

“Dan (MacEachen) made a good move when he hired Danny Phillips,” said Seth Sachson, the executive director of the Aspen Animal Shelter. “I’m impressed by Phillips’ efforts. I hope they continue to make improvements to enhance the quality of life for the Krabloonik dogs. No matter what the reasons were for hiring him, I’m satisfied that Phillips is moving in the right direction.”

Already this year, Sachson said the animal shelter has spayed and neutered almost 100 Krabloonik dogs that are either going up for adoption or were deemed unsuitable for breeding.

Phillips has a goal of reducing the number of sled dogs from 250 to between 175 and 200. He also wants to reduce the age of the working dogs and prepare the older ones for adoption. He’s implemented a program that begins to train the dogs to become domesticated once they become 10 years old.

“The dogs could still pull a sled for another two or three years, but if we start training them domestically at an earlier age, it allows for a smoother transition into retirement and hopefully adoption,” Phillips said.

A new area was built at Krabloonik that mimics a backyard experience for the dogs. It’s a larger kennel where the dogs can roam freely off-leash. All the dogs that are up for adoption get to spend time in the backyard experience area.

By working with Sachson and the Aspen Animal Shelter, Phillips has networked to bring in the right people to help design a program that will give the dogs the proper diet, care and exercise they need.

“We’ve been feeding these dogs the best food for them,” Phillips said. “It’s called Dr. Tim’s, and it comes from Alaska. It’s high in calories and nutrients. So you wouldn’t feed it to your average home pet, or they’d get bloated. It’s a food designed for dogs that work hard. We also work with the Aspen Valley Animal Hospital and came up with a product to help the dogs with skin issues. We’re developing a team that allows us to give these dogs the best food, the best medicine and more.”

The sled dogs are extremely social among themselves, and on Saturday, all got along in their respective areas. The dogs are segregated mostly by teams and know their drivers well.

Like most domestic animals, the sled dogs crave human attention and were hyper-excited whenever someone gave them a few pets. There were more than 200 sled dogs present Saturday, but not one acted aggressive toward any humans.

Sachson said taking the time to find the right match is critical when adopting any dog.

“We always discourage impulse adoptions,” he said. “I know the Krabloonik people feel the same way. Those dogs need a loving home like any other dog would. It takes time to find the right match, but it’s well worth the effort in the long run.”

At Krabloonik, the dog-holding areas in the kennels all have elevated doghouses with fine woodchips inside for the dogs to lie on during the summer months. The canines also can lie in the shade under the elevated platforms.

Alex Mangogna, 26, has been a musher for a year at Krabloonik. He’s an animal lover and came to Colorado just to work as a musher. Mangogna was hired before Phillips became the director of operations and said the changes have been nothing but positive for the animals.

“The dogs seem healthier and happier right now,” he said. “When we used straw in the doghouses, we were getting some mold that caused some bald spots on the dog’s fur. Since we switched to woodchips in the doghouses, the bald spots have really gone away. There’s a real mutual respect between these dogs and the drivers. When they understand you love them and want to take care of them, they’ll do whatever you ask of them. I think they’ll make good home pets because they’re loyal and very attentive. These dogs will learn from you if you take the right approach.”

Greg Greer is a lawyer for Krabloonik and has seen considerable changes since Phillips became director of operations, especially in the way Phillips deals with the public.

“He’s really been reaching out, and not just to the general public but even to critics,” Greer said. “He wants to hear what they have to say, listen to them, make adjustments where it seems appropriate and to communicate with everyone. A lot more gets done with talking than fighting.”

Phillips said there’s a YouTube video that was released in June called “Krabloonik — Our Home” that shows the dogs exercising and working with the sleds.

“If people can’t come up here to the Snowmass kennel for themselves, the video will give them a look at some of the dogs in action,” he said.

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com


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