Krabloonik, dog advocates still working on truce in Snowmass
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Town Council members said Monday that while they welcome updates about progress between Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen and animal advocates, they can’t require him to go above and beyond the law.
Those advocating improved conditions for the animals at the dog-sledding operation attended Monday council’s meeting. They said they are still working through issues of exercise, water and population size with MacEachen. MacEachen has said he is willing to discuss operational changes, but has made clear that he believes conditions are not sub-standard.
Several council members applauded efforts to improve the dogs’ conditions. But when Tom Yocum of Snowmass Village asked the council for an ordinance requiring “the highest standards” at Krabloonik, Councilman Arnie Mordkin argued that wasn’t possible. Even though the town leases property to Krabloonik, the terms of the long-term lease cannot suddenly be changed, he said.
“If Dan complies with those terms ” even if we’ve changed our mind ” the town is sort of stuck with that,” Mordkin said.
Advocates Bill Fabrocini and Lee Ann Vold told the council about their goal to give the dogs exercise in the summer months. At present the dogs spend most of the sled operation’s offseason chained up.
Fabrocini advocated for an exercise pen in which groups of dogs could exercise under supervision, and he said he would like to see MacEachen commit to putting money aside this winter for such a purchase in the spring.
“They’re not like bears who go into hibernation mode in the winter,” said Fabrocini, arguing that the dogs have a strong instinct to run and play even in the summer.
But MacEachen, who is careful to speak supportively of Vold and Fabrocini, said after the meeting that he worries about the cost of such a pen, as well as the possibility that loose dogs could attack each other. A human could be injured breaking up such a fight, he said.
“A dogfight is very, very ugly and dangerous,” MacEachen said.
Fabrocini and Vold also argued that the dogs need to have constant access to water. Right now, some of the dogs kick over their water containers.
But MacEachen maintained that he gives the dogs water every morning, and gives additional water in the afternoon to those that need it.
Fabrocini and Vold also contended that the population of 290 dogs at Krabloonik is too high. MacEachen agreed, saying he would like to see the population decreased to 250 or 260.
“It’s hard to keep a kennel of dogs at a static number,” he said, noting that his litter sizes this spring were larger than he would have liked. He recently gave 15 dogs to the Aspen Animal Shelter, and expects he’ll continue to do so, he said.
Seth Sachson, the shelter director, noted that it’s tougher to find homes for retired sled dogs than it is for the average stray. It generally takes six months to a year to adopt out a Krabloonik dog, compared to other dogs that sometimes find a home in a week or less, he said.
“They’re socialized to be good dogs at Krabloonik, but they’re not socialized to be house pets,” Sachson said.
In the meantime, the shelter is incurring expenses feeding and sheltering the dogs, and the Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter pays for their medical care ” which can be expensive, he said, because females who haven’t been spayed often develop mammary tumors and require operations.
Sachson was asked how many of the people who had complained about Krabloonik had been willing to donate money to the group for the dogs’ care.
Only a handful had, he acknowledged, and he said none had adopted the retired sled dogs.
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.