Arrest warrant issued for former Krabloonik musher
Pitkin County Sherriff’s Office investigates after video shows musher kicking, pinning down sled dog on tour
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office has issued an arrest warrant for former Krabloonik Dog Sledding musher Paul Staples after an investigation into an allegation of animal cruelty documented on video in late January.
The warrant was signed off by Pitkin County Judge Ashley Andrews and officially on March 2, according to court records. It is valid in the state of Colorado only, County Investigations Sergeant Brad Gibson confirmed in a phone call on March 3.
An affidavit accompanying the warrant notes that on Feb. 15, Community Resource Officer Tara Alibrandi learned that Staples had moved out of the area and could not be served a summons. Gibson said Staples had previously indicated he may head to Wisconsin.
The warrant for Staples is for one charge of misdemeanor animal abuse in a Jan. 30 incident that was documented on video, Gibson said. In the video, Staples kicks a dog, pins the dog to the ground, “uses a hammer fist” and “stomps” on the dog and “lifts (the dog) into the air slightly before slamming (the dog) into the ground,” according to a report filed by Gibson and Alibrandi.
Gibson and Alibrandi worked “hand in hand” on the investigation, Gibson said in an earlier interview.
The video is approximately six minutes long and was recorded on a dog sled tour reserved under the “Amari Cooper Group.” It also was posted on Facebook.
About two minutes into the video, a team of dogs pulling a guest in a sled begins to turn early when “the lead dogs change direction too soon,” the report states. Staples approaches a dog named Nicolai and “kicks the dog with his right leg,” the report states.
Staples then “pushes Nicolai to the ground on the dog’s right side and then puts his total weight against Nicolai’s left side, pinning the dog to the ground,” the report states. “Staples tells the dog several times, ‘I thought we were done with this,’ and ‘We don’t do that.’”
Around 2 minutes and 48 seconds into the video, “Staples uses a hammer fist with his right hand and stomps on a dog (presumed to be Nicolai) with his right foot,” according to the report.
About a minute later in the video, Staples returns to Nicolai, “flips the dog onto its right side again, kneels, and places all of his weight on Nicolai’s right side.”
Staples also “lifts Nicolai into the air slightly before slamming Nicolai into the ground” and can be heard “yelling at Nicolai again and again, ‘No! No!’ and ‘I’m really getting tired of this (or it), Nicolai!’” the report states.
Krabloonik co-owner Danny Phillips fired Staples after he learned of the incident, Phillips told Alibrandi in an interview included in the report.
Staples worked for Krabloonik for about five years. Nicolai, the dog, had been on Staples’ team for about three years. Nicolai had a history of fighting with other dogs and “was placed on Staples’ team because Staples is Krabloonik’s most experienced musher,” according to the report.
“Staples said his behavior in disciplining the dog was both excessive and something he had not done before,” the report states. “Staples said if he were watching his own employee do the same he would deem it unacceptable.”
Gibson first received information about the incident on Feb. 2 from Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson. On Feb. 3, Olson confirmed that it occurred in Pitkin County.
Though the Krabloonik facilities are located within Snowmass Village, the case falls under the authority of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office because the incident occurred outside of town limits during a tour near the West Snowmass Creek trailhead at the end of Snowmass Creek Road.
The investigation involved a site visit as well as interviews with Staples, Phillips, Aspen Animal Shelter’s Seth Sachson (who at the time was the last remaining member of the Krabloonik Best Practices Review Committee), former musher Trevor Ohlstein, and Dan Hanks, who is the vice president of the United States Federation of Sleddog Sports.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 3 to indica5e that the arrest warrant was approved by Pitkin County Judge Ashley Andrews and is now active. It is one of several articles in a series on Krabloonik, with additional this week’s edition of the Snowmass Sun.
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