Courtney hopes to buy Krabloonik by winter sledding season
Krabloonik General Manager Guy Courtney resigned from the embattled dog-sledding operation Tuesday morning, as he negotiates to buy the business from longtime owner Dan MacEachen.
Courtney has been in talks with MacEachen to buy the business for months, he said, while also continuing to act as general manager for the business. Also this fall, long-standing controversy over the treatment of the 200-plus dogs at the facility resurfaced with new allegations of canine abuse against MacEachen.
Courtney is hoping to buy the business and reshape it in a manner that would be amenable to critics who’ve claimed it is inhumane.
“The treatment of the dogs has reached critical mass,” Courtney said. “I’ve done all I can to be a buffer and try to keep things from happening.”
As the winter dog-sledding season approaches, Courtney said he believed he could not continue working for MacEachen and representing the business while negotiating to take it over.
“From a negotiations standpoint, I think it’s best to put this at arms length,” Courtney said.
Regarding the negotiations, Courtney said he is hopeful he’ll be able to buy the business before this winter season begins.
“We met [Monday], he set a price, and I’m at a price and we’re trying to close the gap,” Courtney said. “It would surprise me, at this point, if Dan walked away from the table.”
MacEachen could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Courtney began working at Krabloonik in the fall of 2009, running that year’s “rookie camp” for new mushers and taking over management of the restaurant and sledding business. He soon became the public face of the historically private operation, providing an open channel to the public and media that was rarely available from MacEachen, who has run Krabloonik for more than 35 years.
Courtney attempted to patch the long-standing rift between the local community and Krabloonik, spearheading off-season, off-tether exercise for the dogs in 2011. He collaborated with Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs — a local activist group — to improve the standard of care at the facility. And he formed Krabloonik Veterinary Council two years ago, providing on-site care and oversight of the working animals at the kennel.
“I think it’s a good decision on his part,” Bill Fabrocini, co-founder of Voices, said of the resignation. “We’re hopeful Guy can get the place bought and we can move forward together with a new Krabloonik.”
Fabrocini said there is some concern among the Voices group about the possibility of MacEachen continuing to run the facility without Courtney on hand and his dog-friendly reforms in place, if the sale falls through.
Earlier this month, Krabloonik held its annual rookie camp, training new mushers for the season. When the restaurant opens and commercial sled rides begin is weather dependent, but the season normally starts in mid-December. In addition to being without a general manager, several veteran Krabloonik mushers have said they will not return to work this winter if MacEachen is still running Krabloonik, but would work for Courtney, according to sources familiar with the business’ operations.
This fall allegations of continued 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 said they’d witnessed MacEachen beating dogs and that animals had gone missing after MacEachen was left alone with them.
Courtney said he hopes to buy the business, allowing MacEachen to retire comfortably and to give the public confidence that the dogs there are being treated well.
“I want to prevent any dog abuse whatsoever,” he said.