Krabloonik faces challenges with adoption, public pressure |

Krabloonik faces challenges with adoption, public pressure

Owner would consider selling business if dogs were in ‘good hands’

Dogs bark in their kennels at the end of the day at Krabloonik in Snowmass Village on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Members of the Snowmass Village Town Council and Krabloonik Best Practices Committee have identified ways in which Krabloonik Dog Sledding has not met all of the commitments established in the best practices plan attached to the facility’s lease with the town.

Danny Phillips, who co-owns Krabloonik with Gina Phillips, maintains he was not aware that the best practices plan would become a part of the lease when they met with town officials and created the plan by mutual agreement in 2015.

At the time, he believed the plan was a proposal for how the kennel would operate “in an ideal, perfect world,” not a set of enforceable rules, he said Thursday.

When Phillips said much of the same at last week’s Town Council meeting, Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk noted that the owners still signed the lease with those best practices attached and therefore committed to following them.

At the time of the lease agreement, Philips said, “We were like, ‘Woah, we didn’t realize these are going in,’ but they all looked — everything looked like it was all attainable.”

The lease also required that Krabloonik reduce the kennel’s population to 175 dogs by 2020, following the adoption and reduction plan established in the best practices plan.

Dogs bark in their kennels at the end of the day at Krabloonik in Snowmass Village on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

When the owners of Krabloonik signed the lease in 2015, that “absolutely” seemed like a feasible goal, Phillips said.

Implementation proved otherwise. At the time of a Jan. 17, 2022, site visit from Best Practices Review Committee members Bland Nesbit and Seth Sachson, Nesbit and Sachson counted just shy of 200 dogs onsite: 192 dogs in kennels or on chains and seven who roamed the property.

“We thought the adoptions were going to go a lot easier and, you know, quickly we found out that it wasn’t going to be as we thought,” Phillips said.

A few years after signing the lease, “probably around 2018,” Phillips estimated, the Krabloonik team notified the town that the program — which committed to adopting out all dogs over the age of 10 — was “not really working,” he said.

Phillips said that those older dogs, raised under the previous ownership, were not trained for home life and were “really hard to adopt out.” He believes that the training the Phillips have implemented in seven years running the kennel means that when some of the newer Krabloonik dogs reach retirement age, they will already be better adapted for pet life.

Krabloonik is now actively in the process of reducing the total number of dogs onsite.

Since Sachson and Nesbit visited in January, Phillips has brought nine dogs to the Aspen Animal Shelter, all of which remained up for adoption as of Thursday afternoon.

Another 45 adoptable dogs are onsite at the Krabloonik kennel in Snowmass Village, Phillips said. Krabloonik is working with the Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) organization based in Glenwood on a process to help those animals find homes. An application for adoption is on the Krabloonik website.

Some dogs will be going home with mushers at the end of the season.

Phillips said he did not have “exact numbers” but estimated more than 180 dogs are still at Krabloonik, including puppies and dogs that roam the site.

Work to address some of the other identified lapses in the best practices plan also is in progress. The Best Practices Review Committee is back up to the requisite six members after its count dwindled to one member in February, and Phillips said he hopes to return to a more “normal” and regular spay and neuter program this year.

Phillips said the town and representatives from the Colorado Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) program have been communicative about requirements that need to be addressed. Both the town and PACFA have processes and a window of time for Krabloonik to cure any issues before any enforcement action would take place.

But Phillips and other Krabloonik staff have also felt the pressure from animal activists who believe the town should break ties with the facility and that Krabloonik should cease operations entirely.

Snowmass Village Town Council members received more than 150 emails about Krabloonik after the council meeting agenda was posted March 10, according to Town Manager Clint Kinney.

At Krabloonik, Phillips said his office managers are fielding “death threats.” Krabloonik has deactivated its social media accounts.

Phillips questioned what the future would look like for Krabloonik if the facility did close.

“People don’t understand: Where are the dogs gonna go?” Phillips said. “That’s the only reason I took this on, and especially with all the stuff going on now. … I love Krabloonik and the dogs and the business and everything, but it’s super hard when you’re being attacked, like, daily.”

In an email acquired by The Aspen Times through a Colorado Open Records Act request, Phillips indicated on Feb. 7 that he may be interested in selling the business. (Phillips had mentioned it in an email with prospective best practices review committee members Ed Foran and Blake Greiner; that email was included on a chain sent to Snowmass Village town attorney John Dresser.)

Phillips said in the March 17 interview that selling the business “is not 100% something that I would do” but that he would consider it for someone who might appease the activists and ensure the dogs’ safety.

“If I knew that the dogs would be in good hands, then definitely it’d be something that I would be interested in. … I don’t know if I would sell it necessarily, but at the time when you’re being threatened daily and things like that, you know, like, maybe if they were snowmobiles, I’d just sell every snowmobile and walk away,” Phillips said. “I would just have to make sure the dogs were in perfect hands.”