Snowmass council to address dog-abuse allegations | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass council to address dog-abuse allegations

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

Krabloonik mushers drive a dog sled in 2011. Another round of accusations of animal abuse at Krabloonik has prompted the Snowmass Village Town Council to consider some type of intervention, following a heated exchange of public comments during its Oct. 7 meeting.

Another round of accusations of animal abuse at Krabloonik has prompted the Snowmass Village Town Council to consider some type of intervention following a heated exchange of public comments during its Oct. 7 meeting.

Officials asked interim Town Manager Gary Suiter to research possible legal options to respond to allegations of animal abuse by the dogsledding operation, to which the town leases land for $10 a year. Krabloonik, which also operates a restaurant, has been back under fire recently after allegations of dog abuse came out during a child-custody court hearing held in September in Glenwood Springs.

Guy Courtney, general manager of Krabloonik, also acknowledged during the meeting that he is trying to purchase the kennels.

Leigh Vogel, a member of Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs, spoke about the issue, reading testimonials provided to her by mushers and other witnesses.

"What you're going to get at the end of the lease is a graveyard full of broken bones," Vogel said. Vogel, who is a photographer at The Aspen Times but was speaking as a concerned citizen, said she was there to find out what the council could do to intervene.

Mayor Bill Boineau said that he wasn't sure how the council could act without an eyewitness reporting an incident directly to him or to the police. He also said that he's known Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen for more than 30 years.

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"I know he cares about dogs," Boineau said.

Councilman Jason Haber said that, like Vogel, he wants to understand what the officials' legal alternatives for stepping in were.

"I'm always conflicted when it comes to discussions around Krabloonik," Councilwoman Markey Butler said. "When I hear what you're putting forth, I'm going to agree with Jason. I'd like to know what are the options as a landowner relative to what we're discussing this evening."

Boineau said he believed that things had improved at Krabloonik since Courtney became general manager in 2009.

"I do think Dan has changed his way of doing business," Boineau said.

Vogel jumped in, saying MacEachen hadn't changed his way of treating the dogs.

"You've been protecting Dan for so many years now," Vogel said. "I knew that this would be coming that you would be standing up for Dan, and it's enough."

Councilman Fred Kucker said no one was "standing up for anybody" and that he thinks eyewitnesses should go to the police.

"Then if there has been wrongdoing, if there has been animal abuse, and there's been a violation of our code, we can take some action," Kucker said.

Vogel asked how she should follow up in regard to the discussion about the lease. Boineau said that with packed agendas and scheduling, it could be two months before the lease would make it on an agenda. However, Haber jumped in and asked if Suiter could present some information in his Manager's Report at the officials' next meeting.

"I'll give you the lease and give you a summary of it," Suiter said.

Anne Gurchick, of Snowmass Village, who also has advocated for change at Krabloonik for many years, said she was glad that Haber, Butler and Councilman Chris Jacobson were in favor of the council getting involved.

"That's the most action I've seen from this council ever," Gurchick said.

Change in ownership possible

When Courtney came forward, he said he was there to answer any questions the council might have in regard to the allegations. He noted that in his time as general manager, improvements have been made, but "that is not to say that there's a clean bill of health."

He also acknowledged that he's been trying to purchase Krabloonik for a number of years, more intensely in the past several months.

"There is some risk and danger" to going public with that information, he said.

He also talked about the team of 50 to 55 employees who work at Krabloonik in the winter, about 80 percent of whom he's hired and "who stand with me in the things that I am remarking about today."

"Any dog abuse in any way, any shape or any form has no place," Courtney said. "It will not be tolerated at Krabloonik."

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com