D.A. seizes dogs, evidence from Krabloonik
December 18, 2013
The 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office served a search warrant Thursday on Krabloonik in Snowmass, where it collected a number of items — as well as eight dogs — as part of its investigation into the dogsledding operation.
The office has been investigating allegations of animal abuse at Krabloonik since Nov. 19. On Friday, District Attorney Sherry Caloia said her office had not reached a decision whether to file charges, saying it was still waiting to receive final reports from the investigation. However, she said the evidence collected Thursday would "absolutely" influence her decision.
David Myler, an attorney who represents owner Dan MacEachen, did not return telephone messages left at his Basalt office Friday.
Meanwhile, investigator Lisa J. Miller, of the District Attorney's Office, and representatives from the state Department of Agriculture, including two veterinarians, searched the Krabloonik facilities, according to a statement. The investigators arrived at Krabloonik on Thursday morning and were there all day, Caloia said. She wasn't sure if it was open for business. The Krabloonik website says that dogsledding trails are open.
Miller left a copy of the search warrant with Dan Phillips, who was hired as kennel manager in early November. Caloia was not aware if the searchers interacted with MacEachen, she said.
The veterinarians advised Miller which dogs to seize, Caloia said. When asked the reason that they were taken, Caloia said, "I think it's pretty obvious they weren't in good shape," based on the information in the application for a search warrant.
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On Friday morning, Miller introduced a court filing detailing the inventory of items taken during the search. The list included samples of dog food, a "canine incident report" from the kennel office and eight dogs.
The search warrant was granted to Miller on Dec. 5. In the application for the warrant, Miller wrote that she had "probable cause to believe that Krabloonik Inc. is depriving the dogs owned by the facility of necessary sustenance and allows them to be housed in a manner that results in chronic or repeated serious physical harm and is mistreating and neglecting the animals by its actions or lack of providing of proper food, drink or protection from the weather consistent with the species, breed, and type of animal involved."
Miller was assigned to investigate allegations of animal cruelty after a report was filed with the Snowmass Village Police Department, the application for the warrant said. Miller obtained a report written by Sgt. Brian Olson, who interviewed Guy Courtney, former general manager of Krabloonik, and former mushers Curtis Hungate and Christian Lowry. The men's complaints were against MacEachen.
"Hungate told Olson, according to the police report, that male dogs were fed a full scoop that would equal approximately 4-6 cups of dog food with beef and hog fat included and the female dogs were fed approximately 2-3 cups of dog food with beef and hog fat included," Miller wrote in the application. "Hungate also reported to Olson that he estimated that approximately 20% of the 250 dogs at the operation were dogs that have short hair and were a hound mix."
Lowry told Olson that he found a dog frozen to death in January. The dog, Fernando, had been brought inside to be warmed because he was shivering, but MacEachen reportedly told Lowry to leave it outside.
Another dog, Cleveland, experienced similar symptoms but survived.
"Lowry told Sgt. Olson that he provided blankets for 'Cleveland' and had made an adjustment to the dog house so that snow was not blowing inside the dog's house," Miller wrote. "Lowry indicated in the interview that 'Cleveland's' symptoms arose after 'Fernando' had died and 'Cleveland' had been treated by a vet for his symptoms."
Miller also interviewed that veterinarian, Dr. Scott Dolginow, on Nov. 27. Cleveland was brought to Dolginow on Jan. 16, he said, and was described as underweight.
"Dr. Dolginow told me that he ran various tests on 'Cleveland' and could find no medical cause for the low body temperature and provided hypothermia as the cause of the animal's distress," Miller wrote. "Dr. Dolginow described the dog as one of the short-haired dogs."
Miller also contacted Dr. Kate Anderson, administrator of the Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. An inspector from Anderson's office found Krabloonik in violation of three rules listed for small dog breeders under the act during a visit Oct. 3. The violations were supposed to be corrected by the next inspection, but another visit by the department had not been conducted before Miller applied for the warrant. However, representatives of the department were present during the search Thursday.
"I was supplied with other, older, inspection reports," Miller wrote. "A review of these inspection reports, all provided by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, indicates that Krabloonik Inc. has a history of various violations which include past violations in the categories of Veterinary Care and Feeding/Watering."
Miller also conducted an interview with Dr. Alan Hallman, who until recently was a member of the Krabloonik Veterinary Advisory Council. Hallman told Miller that he has provided veterinary care during dogsled races that Krabloonik has participated in since 1994.
"Dr. Hallman told me that he had knowledge that there were a number of dogs at Krabloonik that could be described as the short-hair, hound type dogs," Miller wrote. "He told me that these types of dogs are not uncommon to the dog sledding world but told me that they got cold easier and had a different metabolism than the husky type sled dog."
Hallman reportedly told Miller that he had met with a sled-dog expert named Martin Buser, who told him that dogs of the shorthair variety need from 50 to 100 percent more food than the husky breeds. Hallman told Miller that the dogs he had interacted with that were used for racing were "provided a large amount of calories (10-12 thousand per day), had straw in their kennels at night and were provided with racing jackets to help them endure the extreme cold temperatures," she wrote.
"This statement regarding feeding the dogs in accordance with type and breed differs from the statement regarding feeding by sex as stated by Curtis Hungate in Sgt. Olson's interview," Miller said.
However, Hallman provided Miller with a report he wrote after his last visit to Krabloonik on Feb. 11 that stated that the dogs were "on the lean side." Hallman also stated in that report that he saw dogs with hair loss and lesions from lying on hard surfaces.
"Dr. Hallman indicated, both in my interview and his report, that he recommended straw and continued vet care for the Krabloonik dogs," Miller wrote.
Miller had a follow-up interview with Lowry on Nov. 25. Lowry told her that he was last on the Krabloonik property Oct. 11 through 13 during rookie camp, when new mushers are trained.
"He told me that he estimated that 50 or more of the dogs were showing 3-5 ribs and approximately 10 dogs were showing up to 7 ribs," Miller wrote. "He said that most of the dogs were 'skinny' and not in the same shape as he had seen them in his past two seasons working as a musher with Krabloonik."