Owner of Colorado dog sled business charged with animal cruelty
(CNN) — The front page of the website for Krabloonik, a dog sled operation near Aspen, Colorado, shows healthy, happy-looking dogs pulling a sled through snow.
A white dog seems almost to smile -- mouth gaping open -- as the team turns a tight corner.
Contrast that image with those recently released by state authorities, who inspected the business in December after reports of potential abuse.
Those photographs show sled dogs in chains. Some appear painfully thin, with visible ribs, while others display signs of infection.
Which of the images speak the truth? The answer may well be decided in court.
The owner and operator of Krabloonik, Dan MacEachen, faces eight counts of animal cruelty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
A call to his attorney, Greg Greer, was not immediately returned Monday, but at least a part of his client's story is contained within court documents.
The case was brought to the attention of authorities by three former Krabloonik employees: Guy Courtney, Curtis Hungate and Christian Lowry.
Two of them had a bone to pick with MacEachen, documents filed by Greer allege.
Hungate is the father of a child involved in a custody case, who is also the grandson of MacEachen.
"Mr. Hungate had attempted to extort a settlement in the child custody issue by threatening to make public claims about Mr. MacEachen's dog sled operation," the documents read.
Courtney, meanwhile, had been attempting to buy the business and engaged in a conspiracy to undermine MacEachen's position at Krabloonik, they allege.
According to CNN affiliate KUSA, Courtney was Krabloonik's general manager. He dismissed as "absurd" the idea that he is trying to build a smear campaign against MacEachen.
"I wanted to buy Krabloonik for the benefit of the dogs," Courtney reportedly said. "It's always been about the dogs."
Dogs as commodities?
Authorities impounded eight dogs from Krabloonik, in Snowmass Village, Colorado, on December 12. Six were severely malnourished, and two required serious veterinarian care, they said.
Krabloonik has some 250 dogs, according to KUSA, which visited the business and found that -- overall -- the dogs that the station were shown seemed healthy.
MacEachen told KUSA the dogs are athletes and must maintain a certain weight.
He said he's not angry at his critics.
"Perhaps they don't have the education to understand what is really going on here," MacEachen told the affiliate.
Among his biggest critics is a group called Voices for the Krabloonik Dogs. It has a Facebook page with more than 2,000 likes.
A member of that group, Leigh Vogel, sent an iReport, detailing the alleged abuse and tipping CNN off to the story. The iReport has received more than 16,000 views.
"Animals, especially in a resort town known for its high standards of care for people and animals, are not commodities," said Vogel.
"What is personal to me is the injustice these dogs have to live through in order to bring in cash for the owner and the town of Snowmass Village."