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Buller's famed sled dogs driven off the mountain by impacts of coronavirus restrictions

By Courtney Howe and Matt Dowling, Wednesday August 12, 2020 - 18:20 EST
ABC licensed image
Coronavirus restrictions in Victoria meant the shutdown of sled dog tours at Mount Buller. - ABC licensed

Mount Buller's famed sled dogs could be driven off the slopes for good after a nightmare run that's been capped off by the loss of their home base.



Australian Sled Dog Tours has been in business for six years, but its owners, Brett Hadden and Neisha Shrimpton, fear their business could "crash" if they can't find a suitable new home.

They endured bushfires and then were forced to shut down due to the coronavirus, and now the couple are looking for a new home, after the owner of their property at Cobungra, near Omeo decided to sell.

"We love Buller," Mr Hadden said.

"Buller to us is King's Landing — it's all there."

The couple have 45 dogs, most of which are Siberian huskies they rescued and rehomed from around the country.

"We put them to work, give them a work ethic, a duty of care and they take hundreds of people for rides at the Mount Buller ski resort," Mr Hadden said.

Mr Hadden said they were struggling to find a suitable property to house them and their dogs.

"We could crash as a result of this if we don't find something ASAP."

Ski businesses struggling

Mr Hadden said they were able to operate for the start of the ski season, despite restrictions on international and interstate travellers.

"We started quite strongly at the start of the season, and even with the light restrictions, it was all going good. We lost our international market, and we lost our interstate market, but Victoria was supporting us."



Bushfires earlier this year caused them to be evacuated twice, and prevented Mr Hadden from picking up other work and now with the shutdown of the alpine resorts, he said they had been hit hard.

"I'm trying to keep my workers afloat, but this is their last week.

"This has a massive effect on the tourism industry, and we need to keep tourism afloat, and it's not looking good at this stage," he said.

Communications Manager for Mount Buller Resort Rhylla Morgan said the sled dogs were a popular attraction.

"Living in Australia it's a bit of a treat to have Siberian huskies and to have that experience.

"People even go and have their wedding photos with the dogs," she said.

Ms Morgan said only some businesses had been able to stay open while the resort was closed.

"There's a handful of businesses that are really holding on by their fingernails.

"This is usually the peak of our winter season, and it's very strange to see the resort empty and closed."



Hope for a new home

Mr Hadden said coronavirus restrictions had made it harder to find a new place to live.

He hopes they can find a property at the foot of Mount Buller or in the surrounding area.

"I've looked everywhere. I've got people looking everywhere for a suitable farm that we need to house all our dogs, ourselves and make everything work better than it is now."

He said as a last resort if they could not find a new home soon, he would need to rehome his dogs.

"We'll have to relocate dogs one by one to other people that might be interested but suitable for that dog."


- ABC

© ABC 2020

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