Defendant Gary Reynolds is the owner of NorCal K-9. Devon Ashby is a co-accused in this case. He worked as a trainer for NorCal K-9.
Prosecutors say a dog named Gunnar died while in the care of NorCal K-9. They also say that seven other dogs the company takes care of were found to be under extreme stress and with health issues.
A judge also ordered Reynolds not to train or care for animals during this trial.
This is one of at least two recent incidents in Contra Costa County in which a dog is believed to have died in the care of a trainer. The other case concerns not only the death of a dog, but charges of breach of contract and failure to provide services for two other owners. With around 89 million companion dogs in this country, concerned animal lovers and professionals are calling for stricter regulation of the dog training industry.
RELATED: Santa Clara Couple Says Dog Dies in the Care of Local Trainer
“Dolly, Dolly, whoa. Go get it.” Jane Creswell plays with her dog Dolly at her home in San Ramon.
She says Dolly hasn’t been the same since she was attacked by a dog trainer’s own dog a year ago. Jane’s other dog, Kenzie, died in the same attack.
San Ramon’s wife and husband went on vacation and left their dogs in the care of a woman named Dawn Smith.
“Almost two days later I got a call from her frantic, telling me that she was walking my dogs and a pit bull came over and killed Kenzie and she saved Dolly,” Creswell said.
Creswell said Smith later admitted it was his dog, and not a pit bull, that killed Kenzie and seriously injured Dolly. She believes Kenzie died in an apartment where Smith reportedly lived at the time.
A lawsuit filed last year by another dog owner against Smith accused him of breach of contract and fraud for failing to provide the paid services. The lawyer dropped the case when process servers could not locate Smith to serve him with the necessary legal documents.
7 On Your Side also attempted to contact Smith for this story, but we were unsuccessful.
Last summer, Smith spoke to ABC7 News by phone about Kenzie’s death. She said her dog must have escaped from her kennel while she was shopping. Smith told ABC7 News that at the time she was no longer in the dog training business and had no income to pay for Creswell’s expenses. However, she pledged to reimburse Creswell for the $ 26,000 in vet bills for Kenzie’s care.
To this day, Jane says she has not received any payment.
7 On Your Side has learned that at least two other pet owners have also complained about Smith. Lucy Alvarez sent her dog, Princess, to Smith to learn better social skills with the intention of sending a second dog for training as well. Lucy says she reluctantly allowed Smith to use a shock collar on Princess after Smith convinced her the shock would be minimal. She regretted the decision.
“The second time it was worse,” Alvarez said. “The first time it was a very nervous little dog, but the second time it was a very scared little dog.”
Alvarez said she signed a one-year contract but the training abruptly ended after less than five months when she said Smith no longer returned calls or emails.
Angela Maxwell also hired Smith to train her dog Kona to teach her how to better socialize with other dogs. She paid for six sessions and also authorized the use of a shock collar. Several months later, the two emails were exchanged in which Smith apologized saying she was out of town and offered to end classes with Maxwell’s dog.
Maxwell says she gave up on the schedule after Smith didn’t contact her after that.
At the San Francisco SPCA, dog trainers are both accredited and certified by credible dog training associations. It’s not always the case.
“Unfortunately, your dogs need to be licensed, but your dog trainers don’t,” said Ariel Stephens of the SPCA.
The SPCA has a strong position against the use of shock, claw and electronic collars.
“Dogs learn best with things that motivate them to reinforce the behavior you want to see more of and the things that cause pain and fear have the opposite effect and don’t create new behaviors,” Stephens said.
A member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers believes that shock collars should only be used when other training methods have failed. His group is calling for more oversight of his industry.
“I believe the majority of dog trainers are looking for regulations, but what that looks like is still pending,” said Nic Hof.
7 On Your Side checked with nine schools and organizations that the SPCA or the Association of Professional Dog Trainers have found to offer respected certifications for dog trainers. Eight of the nine responded to us, and none have any record of Smith’s accreditation.
This is because Creswell’s dog Dolly lives with a breathing tube in her neck and is still recovering from her injuries from a year ago.
“We have to bring some sort of legislation or something into the state of California that has some sort of parameters for the type of qualifications a dog trainer has to have,” Creswell said.
We have a list of reputable accreditations and organizations from the SPCA and professional dog trainer associations, as well as a list of questions you should ask a dog trainer before hiring one on abc7news.com .
These groups offer respected certifications for dog trainers. This list is compiled from recommendations from the San Francisco SPCA and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.
- Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
- Animal Behavior College
- Institute of Animal Behavior
- Bergin Canine Studies University
- Associates of canine behavior
- Academy of dog trainers
- Guild of Pet Professionals
- The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
- Accreditation office for companion animal professionals
Here are the questions you should ask before hiring a dog trainer
- What type of equipment will you use on my dog?
- What will happen when my dog does something right?
- What will happen if my dog doesn’t do something right?
- How will you know when my dog is stressed?
- How will you deal with my dog’s stress?
- Can I be present during the whole course?
- What is the training of your dog trainer?
- Where did they learn to become a dog trainer?
- What additional training does your dog trainer have?
- What exactly will they do when training your dog?
- Does your dog trainer have dog training certifications?
Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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