MacEachen pleads guilty to animal cruelty

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Dan MacEachen, owner of the Krabloonik dog-sledding attraction in Snowmass Village, exits the Pitkin County Courthouse on Jan. 14. He will be sentenced today on one charge of animal cruelty.
Aspen Times file photo |

The embattled former owner of the Krabloonik dog-sledding business in Snowmass Village pleaded guilty to animal cruelty Tuesday.

Dan MacEachen was charged with eight counts of animal cruelty, one per sled dog seized from the Krabloonik property by the District Attorney’s Office, in December 2013. On Tuesday, though, he pleaded guilty to one charge. All the other counts were dismissed.

Sentencing has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 13. MacEachen and his attorney Greg Greer were ready to move forward with a sentencing hearing, but Deputy District Attorney Jason Slothouber told the judge he wasn’t expecting to do that Tuesday and had more information he wanted to bring forward.

“Given the high-profile visibility and importance to the community of this case, I think it is important to set it for its own conference so the case can receive the attention that it deserves,” Slothouber said.

The charge carries the potential of as many as 18 months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, said Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely. The parties are recommending probation but not jail, Greer said.

Because his client was still awaiting sentencing, Greer declined to comment on why they decided to plead guilty other than to say that the plea deal allows the new owners of Krabloonik to move forward.

Danny and Gina Phillips, directors of operations under MacEachen’s last year of ownership at Krabloonik, purchased the business in December. The Snowmass Village Town Council approved the transfer of Krabloonik’s lease to the Phillipses two weeks ago with the condition that it would not take effect until the case against MacEachen was resolved.

“I think Dan just wants the dogs taken care of, and this facilitates the sale and the new owners’ care of the dogs,” Greer said. “And that really was all he was ever interested in.”

With the business, MacEachen also sold to the Phillipses all of the Krabloonik sled dogs, including his personal racing team. If the couple defaults on their purchase of Krabloonik, their lease with the town requires that a receiver operate it until a new buyer can be found, meaning that MacEachen will never be responsible for the dogs’ care again.

The organization Voices for the Sled Dogs — formerly known as Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs — was outspoken about the care of the Krabloonik animals leading up to MacEachen’s indictment and throughout the progress of the case against him.

“This outcome will help to ensure that standards of care for sled dogs continue to be taken seriously,” said a statement from the organization Tuesday. “Every person who spoke up on behalf of the dogs throughout these past seven years, and asked for increased oversight and accountability, has been heard. We will continue our work as Voices for the Sled Dogs and focus on statewide and national rules and regulations to further improve the care of sled dogs.”

The charges filed against MacEachen included six for dogs that were malnourished and two for animals in need of significant veterinary care. MacEachen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one of the latter.

A jury trial set for May has been canceled.