Colorado Dog Sled Operation At Center of Controversy Over Fate of Unwanted Sled Dogs

Krabloonik, a Colorado-based dog sled outfit, found itself in the middle of a public controversy in April after letters-to-the editor in local newspapers accused it of killing some of its dogs with a gunshot to the head and then disposing of the bodies of the dogs in a pile of waste.

In an op-ed published in the Aspen Daily news, Krabloonik owner Dan MacEachen admitted that the organization killed dogs that were either at the end of their working lives as well as pups who turned out to be incapable of pulling sleds. MacEachen maintain in his op-ed however, that the dogs were killed humanely and that the whole process was legal under Colorado’s animal welfare laws.

A former employee of Krabloonik’s claimed that the business killed up to 35 dogs annually in this manner, though MacEachen said the actual number is much lower.

A number of other dog sledding outfits contacted by the media said that while this method of killing used to be the norm, that it is no longer widespread within dog sledding outfits.

Four-time Iditarod winner Martin Buser told The Aspen Daily News, for example, that if he needs to euthanize a dog he calls in a veterinarian who administer’s a lethal injection. Buser maintained he had not had to euthanize a dog in several years.

Lynda Plattner, who runs a 300 dog sledding outfit in Alaska, has started up a nonprofit called Alaska’s Iditarod Sled Dog Retirement Foundation whose goal is to provide a retirement program specifically for Iditarod dogs. Plattner told Denver’s ABC 7,

There is no other animal in the world like them, and based on that fact alone, they deserve to continue to receive the best care possible long after their competitive days are over.

In response to an inquiry from ABC 7, the American Humane Society confirmed MacEachen’s interpretation that euthanizing dogs with a gunshot to the head was legal in Colorado, but AHA head Marie Belew Wheatley added that, “It is inconceivable to me that a business enterprise that profits off the work and loyalty of these dogs would fail to seek another more compassionate end for these animals.”

Given the heat dog sledding already receives from animal rights activists, you’d think dog sled outfits like MacEachen’s would not want to hand them an issue on a silver platter like this.


Krabloonik defends culling of pack. Chad Abraham, The Aspen Times, April 5, 2005.

Controversy over treatment of sled dogs. Chad Abraham, Vail Daily, April 9, 2005.

Humane Association Criticizes Shooting Dogs In Head. ABC 7, The Denver Channel, April 5, 2005.

PETA Asks Alabama … Umm, Make that Alaska … To Ban Salmon Fishing

In February, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Alabama Governor Frank Murkowski a letter asking that Murkowski put a stop to salmon fishing in that state. There was just one tiny little problem — Murkowski’s the governor of Alaska.

But that didn’t stop PETA’s Karin Robertson from addressing Murkowski as the “Governor of Alabama” in its letter asking the governor to, “. . . declare King Salmon, the state fish, off limits to fishing.”

Regardless of the confusion over states, Murkowski wasn’t having any of it. His press secretary, Becky Hultberg, told the Anchorage Daily News that the governor would like to see an increase in the king salmon catch,

We’d like to see more king salmon on the dinner plates of people on the East Coast. This clearly shows how out of touch this organization [PETA] is with the people of Alaska.

Bruce Friedrich told the Anchorage Daily News that this was simply a publicity stunt (what a shocker),

We hope that everybody will find it to be provocative and think about why we would ask the governor to take this step. The reality is that fish are interesting individuals and feel pain every bit as much as dogs and cats.

So this is murder, right?

And yet PETA doesn’t want to let us shoot these killers to defend the poor salmon.

Friedrich adds that instead of salmon, people should, “Try walnuts and spinach.” Sure Bruce, just as soon as you talk that bear into a “cruelty-free” diet.


PETA seeks statewide king fishing ban. Peter Porco and Doug O’Harra, Anchorage Daily News, February 19, 2005.

PETA tries to outlaw catching, eating of salmon. Yvonne Ramsay, KTUU.Com, February 18, 2005.

Makah Files for Waiver to Hunt Whales

After failing in its efforts to get its whale hunt exempted from the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Alaskan tribe has decided to take a new tack and comply with the MMPA by filing a request for a waiver under the MMPA.

The Makah tribe’s 1855 treaty with the United States allows it to hunt whales, but the tribe voluntarily abandoned the practice early in the 20th century. About six years ago it began hunting whales again, and members of the tribe managed to kill a whale in 1999.

After a series of lawsuits by animal rights activists, however, federal courts ruled that the Makah needed to comply with the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Last June the Makah lost an appeal in the matter and apparently rather than go on to a higher court have decided to comply with the MMPA and file a request for a waiver to kill a small number of whales.

In February the Makah filed a 55 page application with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requesting a waiver. This is likely a long, uphill effort as apparently such a waiver has never been granted for hunting whales since the MMPA went into effect in 1972. The state of Alaska and a North Carolina company are the only two entities who have apparently ever applied for a waiver, and both withdrew the waiver request before the request had reached the approval stage.

On the other hand, the NOAA is emphatically behind the Makah’s right to hunt a small number of whales. NOAA spokesman Brian Gorman told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that,

The bottom line is, we support the tribe’s treaty right to hunt whales. [But] It’s going to be a long process. I don’t think anyone is fooling themselves about that. We have to take this very carefully. There’s almost a certainty that we’ll be sued.

Animal rights activists are likely to make an argument that the Humane Society of the United States was already hitting — since no one has ever received an exemption under the MMPA to hunt whales, granting the Makah such an exemption would set a dangerous precedent. The HSUS’ Naomi Rose told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,

This could absolutely be precedent-setting. If they win (a waiver to the law), it’s not just the Makah that will be impacted. This will lay the ground rules for anyone who tries to seek an exception to go whaling in the future. So yes, we’ll definitely dog the process.

While the waiver application is wending its way through the approval process, the NOAA will be simultaneously conducting an environmental impact study, which is required by the MMPA. I don’t think the issue is whether or not the NOAA will approve the waiver. The NOAA clearly believes that the small number of whales the Makah plan to take won’t come close to harming the gray whale population. The long-term issue will be whether or not such approval can survive the inevitable lawsuits.


Makahs will seek whaling waiver. Lewis Kamb, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 14, 2005.

Tourism to Alaska Increases while Friends of Animals Spins

In 1993, Friends of Animals initiated a tourist boycott of Alaska after the state resumed aerial killing wolves. Then Gov. Wally Hickel quickly caved to Priscilla Feral’s demands and put a swift end to the wolf hunts. So when Friends of Animals announced yet another boycott in December 2003 after Alaska again decided to allow aerial killing of wolves, the activists must have thought they would be able to bring substantial pressure against Gov. Frank Murkowski. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

In fact, according to the Associated Press, despite the Friends of Animal boycott, the number of people who visited Alaska over the summer actually increased over 2004. Alaska’s 15 national parks set a new record for number of visitors.

This leaves Feral with nothing to do but spin, telling the Associated Press,

Maybe more people would have visited if not for the public outrage over the issue. For me, it’s not a quick fix. I wish it was. We’re just going to keep shedding light on a gruesome issue whatever way we can. It does feel like an uphill battle with the current governor, but even he will eventually be replaced.

Murkowski’s term runs through November 2006, and he can run for re-election. Regardless, if they can’t impact visitors to Alaska, the issue isn’t going to have traction with any Alaskan governor as the program is popular within the state. No one’s going to lose their jobs over increased tourism, regardless of whether or not Feral thinks it might have been higher (one could as easily make the claim that more visitors chose Alaska because the governor resisted the animal rights group’s demands).

Friends of Animals is also not having much luck in court. It has sued to stop the hunting and a trial on the matter is scheduled on May 16. It also sought an injunction to end the killing until that trial takes place. In February, Alaska Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason refused to issue such an injunction, and took a nice legalese swipe at the group,

The plaintiffs [Friends of Animals] have made it quite clear that to them, the practice of killing wolves from airplanes to enhance moose populations for human consumption is a practice they find morally and ethically repugnant. But in balancing the hardships between the parties for purposes of preliminary injunctive relief, the fact that the state’s aerial wolf control programs are in direct contravention to the plaintiffs’ beliefs is not, under the law, a factor that is considered an ‘irreparable injury’ in determining whether preliminary injunctive relief is necessary.

Friends of Animals is currently trying to gather 28,000 pledges to boycott Alaska by the end of February. Since December 2004, it has collected a total of 5,000 signatures at live events, and is now turning to Internet petitions to reach the 28,000 level.


Group launches new ways to oppose wolf control program. Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press, February 1, 2005.

Judge won’t suspend Alaska wolf control. Mary Pemberton, Associated Press, January 27, 2005.

Judge rejects group’s bid to halt wolf control program. Associated Press, February 2, 2005.

Proponents of Alaska Bear Baiting Ban Complain about Official Election Pamphlet on Measure

Supporters of a ballot proposal that would ban bear baiting in Alaska were unhappy at wording from their opponents that appeared in the state’s official pamphlet on the measure.

Alaska’s Division of Elections printed up 300,000 copies of the pamphlet for Alaskan voters. The major groups supporting and opposing the initiative where asked to provide text describing why they supported or opposed the ballot measure.

Opponents of the measure included text claiming that the ballot measure was,

. . . proposed by out-of-state extremists like Greenpeace and PETA . . . [and] is being heavily funded by numerous national anti-hunting, anti-fishing and environmental obstructionist groups.

Citizens United Against Bear Baiting complained that the opponents’ text wrongly linked the measure with outside groups and overstated the effect of the law.

A spokeswoman for the Alaska Outdoor Council told the Anchorage Daily News that Citizens United Against Bear Baiting is part of a larger nationwide anti-hunting movement and that its characterization of the proposal was fair.

Laura Glasier, director of the Division of Elections, said that her agency simply would not get involved in fact-checking statements by either side, which would open her agency up to doing so for dozens of candidates and other issues also included in the pamphlet. Glasier told The Associated Press,

I understand their concern. All I can say is, how many people do I hire to check and recheck every candidate’s statement, every birth date, every address.


Bear baiting foes growl about election pamphlet. Associated Press, September 23, 2004.

Alaska to Expand Wolf Cull

Despite protests from the Friends of Animals over its wolf hunt last year that killed 144 wolves, Alaska plans to expand the aerial hunting of wolves this year.

Alaska’s initial aerial hunting program in 2003 resulted in 127 wolves killed in the Nelchina Basin and 17 in the McGrath area. The wolves were culled in order to allow moose populations in those areas to increase for hunting purposes. According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, there are anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 wolves in Alaska, and about 1,500 are killed annually by hunters and trappers.

This year, in addition to the Nelchina Basin and McGrath areas, the state will offer permits for the aerial shooting of wolves west of Cook Inlet and near Aniak as well. The state would like hunters to kill about 150 wolves in both of the new areas.

Asked about the possibility of the Friends of Animals’ tourist boycott intensifying, a spokeswoman for Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski said, “He’s [Murkowski] concerned about what Alaskans think” not what animal rights activists elsewhere in the nation think.

Permits for the aerial hunt will be issued on October 15th and the hunt itself should get underway sometime in early December.


State widens wolf control program. Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 29, 2004.