Fabrocini: Krabloonik is not about the activists

Bill Fabrocini
Guest Commentary
Teams of sled dogs at Krabloonik catch their breath. They are part of the approximately 250 dogs trained and run by the Snowmass Village operation.
The Aspen Times/Mark Fox

I have attempted to stay out of the media in regard to the (once-again) controversy about Krabloonik. However, the most recent news story in which owner Danny Phillips states that animal-rights activists would rather see the dogs locked up in shelters or put down rather than working and doing what they love crosses a line that requires a response.

Once again, the narrative that the owner tries to create is that all of Krabloonik’s problems — including their most recent eviction status — stems from animal activists, and that Krabloonik is being treated unfairly simply for operating a sled-dog business. The former owner played the same card right up until he was convicted of animal cruelty in a court of law in 2014.  

To set the record straight, it’s not about dog sledding but rather all the other areas of sled-dog welfare that should be encompassed within the business. No one wants to prevent the dogs from running or pulling sleds. On the contrary, that should be embraced. 

However, the care of these animals goes beyond simply pulling a sled for 40 minutes for three or four months of the year, especially when their means of confinement is a six-foot chain.  

It may be surprising to readers that some of the most condemning comments in regard to the operational standards and care of the Krabloonik dogs comes from experienced mushers within the industry. These are open public records on file with the Town of Snowmass Village that anyone can access. 

I have also read legal reports involving numerous alarming incidents at Krabloonik over the past several years in which the owner tries to place the blame on animal activists when there is no correlation whatsoever.

The incident in February 2020 is one such occurrence that involved an older gentleman who was skiing at Snowmass and pulled over to stop on an open run before he was hit and badly injured by the sled crossing the open run. In a court deposition taken in May 2022, Mr. Phillips states that this skier was an animal activist standing in the middle of the ski trail and yelling and screaming. Rather, it was simply a skier standing on an open ski run in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Similarly, in a sled dog crash in March of 2021 that seriously injured members of a family, the most condemning evidence against Krabloonik comes from an experienced musher who formerly served on the board of directors for the Iditarod and now a personal-liability attorney specializing in dog-mushing cases. His expert opinion challenges the safety operations at Krabloonik. These are all open public records.

Lastly, and most recent, the January 2022 sled-dog abuse case captured on video leading to the arrest warrant of the head musher. Are animal activists to blame for any of these incidents?

In addition, there are all the state violations cited against Krabloonik this year alone. I have read reports from the State of Colorado’s regulatory body that clearly concluded that Krabloonik records did not meet the standards of the exercise plan the owner submitted that are required by state regulatory law.

In a transcripted phone call, the state inspectors admit to several problems at Krabloonik but acknowledge that their role is simply to bring the facility into compliance. The state’s passive role in regulating animal facilities is a separate issue that deserves attention but is beyond the scope of this commentary.

I have also reviewed the Best Practices Review Committee notes for the past seven years. This committee is required to accurately document and assess a variety of animal-welfare elements, including: breeding, exercise, employees on site, adoption, spay and neutering, etc. Alarmingly, there are multiple inconsistencies in what is documented when it is cross-referenced with state and town records and former employee interviews.   

Finally, during my brief role on the Best Practices Review Committee this past spring, I listened to the Town Council question the owner over many areas of animal welfare. The answers the owner provided were simply not true.

For example, in a recorded council meeting, when asked how he plans to reduce the number of dogs at the facility, he stated that he has not bred any dogs for the past two years. However, state records confirmed that Krabloonik did indeed have multiple litters of puppies both in 2020 and 2021.

The council also asked how often the dogs get off tether to exercise when not pulling the sleds. The owner responded that they usually have six hours throughout the day to get the dogs out and running. Yet, this was not the case when I and others went to observe for many days straight, out of view. We took photos to document, and there was no evidence of the dogs ever coming off their chains. The council was updated with this information during the next session without being disputed by the owner who was present.  

Krabloonik now faces serious challenges in terms of their eviction status. Its landlord —the town of Snowmass Village — has stated that Krabloonik has failed to meet the standards of the best practices written as part of the lease. It should be clear that whatever obstacles Krabloonik faces is not because of animal activists. They dug this hole all by themselves.  

One final note on animal activists, or rather, what I call people who care: In the event that Krabloonik is evicted, and the dogs are left behind, it will be the hard work of these numerous caring people who will work tirelessly to get these dogs adopted into loving homes. It won’t be easy, and it will take time, but the process is already in the works if the eviction goes through.  

Snowmass Village resident Bill Fabrocini has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for over 30 years and works in the field orthopedic rehabilitation and sports performance. He was recently a member of the Krabloonik Best Practices Review Committee.


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