Tension over tethering remains between Krabloonik owners, advocates

Mar 12, 2015

Danny Phillips spends a moment with Harley, right, and brother Triumph, on the left. The two dogs are on tethers long enough to touch each other.
Credit Elise Thatcher

The new owners for Krabloonik Fine Dining and Dogsledding are working out the details for their lease with the local government. The business is on Snowmass Village town property. Local animal advocates want to make sure there are specific requirements in the lease for treating the dogs well, like making sure they’re off tether more often. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher took a look at the issue and has this story.

  It’s a sunny March day at Krabloonik and new owners Danny and Gina Phillips are walking through the kennel. The dog next to us, Harley, has a classic husky build and an outgoing personality. He’s on a tether, or a chain, attached to the ground just below his dog house. Danny Phillips explains how it works.

“It’s six foot two inches, and [Harley] has his porch and his dog house," points Phillips, "and he has a circle. I tell people it’s like a 12 foot round teepee would be the same.”

Tethers are regulated by the State of Colorado, to make sure the chains don’t hurt the animals. Those details prevent the dogs from getting tangled up with each other or objects nearby, and require the chain to move freely with the animal. 

“So that’s part of human tethering is we check the chains," says Phillips. "We’re constantly working and making sure that the chains are the right lengths.”

Leigh Vogel, of the Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs.
Credit screen grab, Town of Snowmass Village

Like digging out the end of the chains, at the ground, when there’s lots of snow, to make sure the chains aren't restricted.  Phillips says having the dogs in their own space helps them, and has been part of sled dog training for a really long time.

“These guys are working animals, and they need time to get away from everything else, and just to be able to relax and enjoy who they are." Phillips looks out at all the dogs in the kennell, reflecting. "It’s been thousands of years in breeding and never in these bloodlines has there been a domesticated dog.”

Animal advocates have raised questions about tethering at Krabloonik. Former owner Dan MacEachen faces animal abuse charges. He sold the business to the Phillips recently. Leigh Vogel is with the non profit group Voices for the Krabloonik dogs. She’s kept a close eye on Colorado’s animal regulations, called the Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act, or PACFA.

“Our concerns for tethering is that PACFA, does not require a certain amount of time off-tether in the off season,” says Vogel.

It does require an exercise plan that’s signed off by a veterinarian, which the new Krabloonik owners have done.  Vogel supports many of the changes made so far at the kennel, but believes it’s crucial to make sure those improvements continue, like adding more time for the dogs to run free.

“The best way to remedy that is for the new Krabloonik owners [with] support [from]Snowmass Village Town Council, is to have in writing what the off season exercise plan will be.”

The Phillips plan to have their dogs off-tether twice a week this summer, like they did at the end of the last off season. They do what’s called a free run, letting fifteen dogs at a time scramble around a large section of the property. The goal is to expand that--but  it's taken a while to get where they are now. 

“We probably trialed 30 dogs, at least, and found 15 dogs who were successful together," she explains. "So it took 15 other dogs that didn’t work out in that situation.”

Those variables mean the Phillips are unsure how long it will take to get all two hundred dogs off leash more than twice a week in the summer. Vogel agrees it could take a while to get to where dogs are off tether more often. But, in the big picture, she believes it would benefit Snowmass Village and Krabloonik’s reputation to have more dogs stretching their legs sooner rather than later.

Seth Sachson, Executive Director of the Aspen Animal Shelter, holds one of the dogs he adopted from Krabloonik several years ago.

  “It’s realistic that fencing cannot be put into the ground in winter months, and it seems that possibly within a year, new fencing can be built and the new owners can take time to see which dogs get along with which dogs.”

So tension remains between the long time advocacy group, Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs, and the new owners. And Seth Sachson is squarely in the middle of the conflicting perspectives. He’s Executive director of the Aspen Animal Shelter and has worked as a musher in the past. Sachson was one of many who submitted comments to Snowmass Town Council about how Krabloonik should be run. His letter recognized the concerns of both animal advocates, and the new owners.

“I really do believe that [the Phillips] are working hard to make these changes," says Sachson enthusiastically. "To get [the dogs] off their tethers and to exercise them and socialize them.”

He knows it could take a while to do that as much as the new owners and advocates want to. “It is difficult because Danny and Gina are not operating with unlimited funds," points out Sachson. "It takes money to build enclosures, it takes money to supervise the dogs, it takes money to pay vet bills when dogs get in fights.”

On the other hand, Sachson believes it’s better for the dogs to be off-tether more frequently in the off season, because, “I do believe that the positive of the dogs’ quality of life being enriched outweighs the negatives.”

Snowmass Village officials will have to decide whether to put additional tethering requirements in the land lease, or let the new Krabloonik owners feel it out. The lease will be finalized once the animal cruelty charges, against the previous owner, are resolved.