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Report notes lapses in Krabloonik commitments to be addressed

Best Practices Review Committee member identifies unmet promises and opportunities to improve

Krabloonik Dog Sledding dogs wait in the yard in Snowmass on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

In the opinion of Krabloonik Best Practices Review Committee member Seth Sachson, the operators of Krabloonik Dog Sledding have “neglected to follow through with the majority of their promises” established in the Best Practices Plan attached to their lease with the Town of Snowmass Village, according to a Feb. 8 report submitted to the town by Sachson.

In that report, Sachson identified lapses in Krabloonik’s adoption and reduction plan, spay and neuter program and off-tether program for the dogs.

Krabloonik co-owner Danny Phillips has indicated a commitment to work on adopting out and spaying and neutering, according to public records and statements from Sachson and Phillips.



Adoption and Reduction Plan

Krabloonik’s lease states that the facility should have no more than 175 dogs onsite, and the Best Practices Plan indicated a commitment to hit that number by 2021 through a five-year reduction plan.

Sachson and then-committee member Bland Nesbit counted 192 dogs “either in chain link kennels or on chains,” plus seven more “older dogs that wandered the property,” Sachson wrote in a supplemental report filed Feb. 8.




Of those 199 dogs, around 33 were retired from pulling sleds, Sachson reported.

Since late January, Phillips has brought a total of nine dogs to the Aspen Animal Shelter for adoption, according to Sachson, who is also the director of the shelter.

That count includes four dogs brought in on Jan. 26, according to Sachson’s Feb. 8 report, plus five more brought to the shelter this past weekend, Sachson said in a phone call on Sunday afternoon.

One of those five dogs is Nicolai, the dog that former musher Paul Staples hit, kicked, slammed and pinned to the ground in a video from a Jan. 30 sled dog tour, according to a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputy report for that incident.

Sachson said that the Aspen Animal Shelter’s staff veterinarian conducted an initial examination of Nicolai and “deemed him to be in good condition.” Nicolai will be neutered this week, after which point there will be a “more thorough examination.”

Phillips wrote in that Feb. 20 email that the number of dogs he plans to bring to the shelter in the coming months “depends on how quickly the current sled dogs at the shelter are adopted out.”

Phillips “has expressed a desire to reduce his kennel to under 100 dogs,” Sachson wrote in his supplemental report. Phillips confirmed that intent in a Feb. 20 email.

The timeline for reaching that goal “is hard to say but ideally less than one year,” he wrote to The Aspen Times.

The town of Snowmass Village has allowed some flexibility with how many dogs are on site in part because of that population of retired dogs, according to Sachson’s report and a council discussion about Krabloonik that took place last June.

Co-owners Danny and Gina Phillips have maintained that there are challenges in transitioning sled dogs to the life of a pet and in finding homes that are prepared to handle that transition, hence the higher count of dogs.

Spay and Neuter Program

The Best Practices Plan in Krabloonik’s lease indicates that a spay and neuter program with the Friends of Aspen Animal Shelter began in 2014, and that by around 2015, some 100 dogs had been spayed and neutered with costs covered by the Friends of Aspen Animal Shelter group.

Sachson confirmed that in his Feb. 8 report and noted that the group “is ready and willing to continue this program into the future,” but that “Krabloonik has not requested spay/neuter assistance from the Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter since 2015.”

Sachson’s report stated that “the majority of Krabloonik dogs are not neutered.”

Danny Phillips stated that Krabloonik will “probably” spay and neuter about 75 dogs this year, according to the report that county authorities compiled for the incident involving former musher Staples and sled dog Nicolai.

Krabloonik only spays and neuters dogs between the months of June and October, Phillips told Alibrandi.

Off-Tether Program

Sachson’s Feb. 8 report suggests that Krabloonik is lacking an “excellent off-tether program.”

In an interview with The Aspen Times, Sachson said that in a “dream scenario” the dogs could “always be off tether,” but that would require significant facility updates; an “excellent” program “would involve dogs getting off their tethers at least once a day to free run.”

However, with the current number of dogs and the current number of staff at Krabloonik, it would be “very, very, very difficult” to achieve that “excellent” program, Sachson said in the interview.

“Although they are free-running some days in the winter, the current employees stated that they are so busy with customers that not all of the retired dogs are getting off their tethers on a regular basis,” Sachson wrote. “Additionally, past mushers have reported that the dogs in the kennel are rarely released in the summer season.”

Sachson’s report also included other recommendations for the operations of Krabloonik: “better record keeping” and web cameras on the property, as well as less “abstract” best practices, would improve transparency and accountability, and the development of an indoor-outdoor facility and dog park would be beneficial to the dogs, he wrote.

Editor’s note: This story is one in a series of articles on Krabloonik Dog Sledding in Snowmass Village. For more coverage, visit snowmasssun.com.

kwilliams@aspentimes.com


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