Krabloonik in Snowmass has first public hearing on new lease |

Krabloonik in Snowmass has first public hearing on new lease

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

The public was able to comment for the first time Monday on a lease negotiation between the town of Snowmass Village and the new owners of the Krabloonik dog-sledding operation.

Danny and Gina Phillips purchased the business in December and have since been operating it under a temporary, conditional lease granted by the town, which owns the land Krabloonik operates on. After years of controversy and the indictment of Krabloonik’s former owner for animal cruelty, the council has said it wants to prevent future turmoil by working some animal-care requirements into the lease before permanently transferring it to the Phillipses.

Town Attorney John Dresser drafted a new lease with input from the Phillipses and David Myler, former owner Dan MacEachen’s attorney, who was involved because MacEachen is still financing the Phillips’ purchase, Dresser said. If the couple defaults on their deal with MacEachen, he will again become the owner, but Dresser and Myler worked out an agreement in the lease whereby the business will be operated by a receiver until a new buyer is found.

The biggest addition to the lease is that of a set of operational standards called “best practices” in the document, Dresser said. Those were written by the Phillipses and include standards of feeding, housing, exercise and a plan to reduce the number of dogs on the premises over time through adoption and spaying and neutering.

“Things seem really fair,” Danny Phillips said at the end of Dresser’s presentation. “We submitted best practices based on what we think and how we feel a kennel should be run.”

Issues that sparked discussion among the council members included how that review committee would function and a purchase option in the lease. MacEachen would have had that option next year; Dresser suggests the new owners be required to wait until 2021 to either purchase the land or extend their lease.

MacEachen’s lease included a complicated formula that would determine the option price for the land, known as Lot 45 of the Divide subdivision. Dresser proposed that the option price in the new lease could equate to the sale amount of Divide Lot 42, which MacEachen sold following the same land swap that resulted in the town acquiring the Krabloonik property.

Tethering is an issue to some

Many members of the public were present to comment on the discussion, including former Krabloonik general manager Guy Courtney, who resigned while attempting to purchase the business in 2013 and who MacEachen’s defense has alleged had “personal motivations” in going to the police about the former owner’s treatment of his animals.

Courtney praised the Phillipses, who he said the council would be easier on if they were seeking to start their own dog-sledding business and not taking up MacEachen’s.

“I don’t know them,” Courtney said. “Any change up there is a good change. Their heart is in the right place. They’re doing the things that are necessary.”

Also present to speak were members of the advocacy group Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs. Member Leigh Vogel said after the meeting that she was primarily there to speak about the tethering of the dogs to their individual kennels. She contacted veterinarians, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals members and local experts, who submitted letters to the Town Council about their views on tethering, some of which she read excerpts from at the meeting.

“As a dog sled musher, I am very familiar with the concept of tethering in order to house large numbers of dogs safely and economically,” wrote Seth Sachson, executive director of the Aspen Animal Shelter, in one of the letters. “I am not opposed to responsible tethering, but I firmly believe that in order to maintain both mental and physical health, a tethered dog should be allowed the freedom to move and socialize outside of his or her circle every day.”

Earlier in the meeting, Danny Phillips said he is working toward letting dogs run free in the summer for longer periods of time but that it isn’t an overnight process. The dogs aren’t used to interacting that way, and some may never get there, he said.

“My ultimate responsibility is to keep these dogs safe,” Phillips said. “I can’t do that by turning 30 dogs out at a time right now. Maybe in the future, … but I can’t promise that.”

Another testimony was delivered by Claudia Putnam and Harvey, formerly named Comet, one of the dogs seized from the premises prior to MacEachen’s indictment. Putnam spoke about injuries and behavioral issues Harvey has, which she believes are the result of poor tethering practices at Krabloonik.

More discussion of the lease will occur at the Town Council’s work session at 5 p.m. Monday in Town Hall.

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