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Training facility owner asserts surprise by dog's death

Becky Campbell • May 17, 2019 at 8:53 PM

The owner of a canine training facility in Johnson City issued a statement this week denying responsibility for the starvation death of a dog being trained by one of her employees.

Randi LaFerney, 55, 405 Sugar Hollow Road, Piney Flats, and Andrew “Andy” Hunigan, 28, 1 Gatewood Drive, Johnson City, were both charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty after a 8-month-old bull terrier named Dallas died in Hunigan’s care, police said.

The dog was supposed to be with Hunigan for a two-week boarding and training through LaFerney’s business — K9 Off Leash Training East Tennessee — but the time kept getting extended because Hunigan told the owners the pup needed more housebreaking training.

In her statement to media, LaFerney denied having anything to do with the dog’s death and only met him once.

"I have been involved in animal advocacy for 20 years. I have never been charged for a crime related to my animal ventures or anything else. The first time I laid eyes on Dallas other than his puppy consult in December was on May 2nd after I received a heartbreaking call that he had died.

“I pride myself on my respect and care for animals and hire trainers with the same attitude. I trust that they care for these animals the way I would. I can honestly say at this time that I do not know what happened, but I do know I had absolutely no idea that Dallas was anything but a healthy dog until I learned of his untimely death.

“I have expressed my deepest sympathies to Dallas’ owners and will continue to do so. This isolated incident is not a reflection of my business and goes against everything I have worked so hard for for 20 years. I appreciate my loyal customers and this community for having patience and not making unwarranted judgments against me or any of my businesses before this process is complete."

Authorities discovered the dog’s death after the owners picked up his body from LaFerney and took the emaciated dog to their veterinarian. A necropsy conducted at the University of Tennessee veterinary school showed Dallas died from starvation.

The report showed the dog had a 0% bodyfat percentage and there was no presence of food in the GI tract. The dog had lost half his body weight in the time he was with Hunigan, officials said.

LaFerney and Hunigan are both free on $10,000 bond. Their next court hearing in Washington County Sessions Court is set for June 12 at 9 a.m.

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