Two out of the three active members of the Krabloonik Veterinary Advisory Council resigned last week, amid continued allegations of animal abuse at the dog-sledding operation and ongoing negotiations to sell it.
The council, in place since 2011, has disbanded.
Local veterinarian and Aspen Animal Hospital owner Scott Dolginow, a vet council member who has provided animal care for Krabloonik dogs at his clinic for more than 20 years, said he will continue treating dogs there on his own.
“I’m here to provide veterinary care for the dogs and I want to continue doing that,” said Dolginow.
The outgoing vets, Alan Hallman, of Arizona, and Frank Puccio, of New York, both specialize in working animals, with experience with sled and sporting dogs.
They had been visiting the kennel multiple times per year and preparing reports on dogs’ care there with Dolginow for the last three years. They were brought in by general manager Guy Courtney, in an effort to quell public criticism of dogs’ treatment there and boost oversight of Krabloonik’s quality of care.
The vets’ departure from the council comes on the heels of Courtney’s resignation last month.
Hallman and Puccio also are investors in Courtney’s bid to buy the business from longtime Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen. Those negotiations are ongoing, and their resignations arguably strengthen their bargaining position.
The council had recommended that MacEachen improve conditions for the dogs overnight in the wintertime, according to Courtney and Dolginow, including more food and straw bedding to keep them warm in below-freezing temperatures. Courtney said one short-haired sled dog died of exposure at Krabloonik last winter. MacEachen had not acted on the recommendation, according to Courtney, prompting Hallman and Puccio’s resignations.
“My read on it is that the primary disagreement was the warmth of the dogs in winter,” said Courtney.
Courtney said he would bring back the vet council if he is able to buy the business, and would apply their recommendations in a more dog-friendly Krabloonik.
Dolginow said he has offered to recruit additional veterinarians to resurrect the council while MacEachen controls Krabloonik.
“I told Dan ‘I’m not a committee,’” Dolginow said. “I think it would be good to have other members and I said I’d be happy to find some other vets to continue it.”
MacEachen could not be reached for comment.
Whether or not the ownership of the long-running Snowmass Village dog sled operation changes, Dolginow said he hopes the standard of care will improve. He noted that MacEachen has in the past said he would like to improve conditions, but has a limited budget to do so.
“Everyone has concerns about it,” Dolginow said. “We would all like to see the animals taken care of in a reasonable way and would like to see the quality of care improved.”
Local activists and dog lovers have for years criticized the conditions in which Krabloonik’s 200-plus dogs are kept. This fall, new allegations of animal abuse by MacEachen at the kennel arose during a child custody hearing between a former musher and MacEachen’s daughter.
At the September hearing, former mushers alleged that they’d witnessed MacEachen beating dogs and that animals had gone missing after MacEachen was left alone with them.