Guest commentary: Getting it right at Krabloonik | AspenTimes.com

Guest commentary: Getting it right at Krabloonik

Bill Fabrocini
Guest Commentary

When I co-founded Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs many years ago, the objective was to provide factual information about the animal care and welfare at Krabloonik while educating the public about dogsled industry standards.

I made countless visits to Denver to learn the governing laws of the Pet Animal Care and Facility Act, which regulates all pet-animal facilities, including dogsled operations. I put together an advisory board that for eight months attempted to work with Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen to improve the standards of care for his dogs. I had numerous interviews with dogsled operators from many states and with mushers both at Krabloonik and other dogsled operations. I held bi weekly meetings with Krabloonik's former manager, which included updates on their practices. And I interviewed dozens of witnesses who have written or called with concerns and testimonies of animal abuse.

Humbly speaking, I have done my research, and I know the history of Krabloonik, the laws that govern it and standard dogsled practices.

I have read countless letters over the past couple of months, most recently from Roger Marolt supporting Krabloonik and from Cindy LaMar citing a lack of evidence behind the allegations of animal abuse against Krabloonik and MacEachen. While I appreciate an individual's willingness to write letters, and for some to take the time to visit Krabloonik, I feel qualified to, once again, state the facts.

I can go back to 1998 and the fact that MacEachen entered a no-contest plea to animal cruelty; I can remind people of the fact that for years, hundreds of dogs were shot in the head and thrown into a pit and it was only stopped when it was exposed to the media and there was public outcry.

There is the fact that the state cited Krabloonik with serious violations for years, including a failed state inspection in 2008, documenting severe life-threatening issues to certain dogs. In 2008, no one even knew about these violations until Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs made them public to the media and forced changes.

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What about the fact that dogs disappeared from Krabloonik last year and that current mushers and the former manager can recite the names of the dogs and when they disappeared? They probably could tell you their ages and why they were killed. What about the fact that Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs has paid for veterinarian bills for Krabloonik dogs that would not have been treated otherwise? These are not opinions; they are facts.

Most recently, upon state inspection last month the state cited Krabloonik for, among other things, the state violation of not providing identification for all of the dogs. If the dogs are not all accounted for via identification, it makes it easier to get rid of a few for whatever reason one might have. The dog has a behavior issue? Bury it. The dog is not pulling its weight? Bury it. It's much easier and saves more money than the alternative of taking the time to work with the dog or to find it a suitable new home. These facts just scratch the surface.

I understand that MacEachen has friends who support him; some may or may not be aware of all the facts. This is not, and never has been, personal. It is about the dogs and about exposing the truth and trying to bring about regulations and standards that both protect these dogs and improve their standard of life.

You can still support Dan while encouraging oversight and regulations that look after the dogs. This is the challenge I bestow upon the current council members at Snowmass Village and, in particular, Mayor Bill Boineau, who has been reluctant to do so.

In years past, I and others presented these facts at Snowmass Village Town Council meetings, and the information was poorly received with a lack of interest. One member actually stated that they had more important things to do (fact). The others more or less passed the buck to the state. The problem with this is that the state has its own problems. It is short-staffed, while responsible for the oversight of hundreds of animal operations throughout the state, not to mention the fact that in years past the state has been charged with tipping off operators as to when it is coming to perform a "surprise" inspection (9 News investigation). The Pet Animal Care and Facility Act only provides oversight for the most minimal standards of animal care.

As I have argued in the past, by the act's standards, one can chain a dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, and as long as the chain is 6 feet long, one is within the standards of acceptable conduct. This allows for unethical owners to keep any of their dogs permanently chained for an entire lifetime. Pathetic, don't you think? In light of the history of Krabloonik and the fact that it continues to fall into violations and questionable practices, along with accusations of animal abuse from its own mushers, where is the wisdom in allowing a poorly run state governing body, that regulates only minimal standards of animal care based upon a visit once or twice a year, to oversee Krabloonik? Would it be too much to ask of the town of Snowmass Village to form a reputable regulatory committee to perform random inspections in an effort to improve the current standards of care? This is, in fact, part of what local government does through establishing ordinances and oversight.

Animal-welfare issues have been addressed through local governments in communities throughout the United States. Why not in this situation? After all, this has been an issue in Snowmass Village for more than two decades, and the town does, in fact, lease the land to MacEachen for $10 per year. It's time for the Town Council to step up. I realize it is not a perfect solution, but it could foster communication and bridge the gap between those who support Dan, those who are skeptical and concerned, and the many, such as I am, who know the facts and are completely distrustful of his practices and treatment of dogs.

Lastly, it is my hope that Krabloonik soon sells and falls under new leadership. If, for some reason, it does not sell, we will push hard to make sure the facility is in compliance with all state regulations including identification so that all of the Krabloonik dogs are accounted for and will not just go missing again this season. In the meantime, there is quite a bit Snowmass Village authorities can do to bring the community together on this long-standing issue.

Really, what is there to lose? I'm asking you, Town Council, as well as the community members in Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt and beyond. Please let your voice be heard so that the council members of Snowmass Village know that you care about this issue and support local government oversight of Krabloonik. Email your comments to council@tosv.com or call 970-922-2275. And you can reach me at Voicesforthekrabloonikdogs@gmail.com.