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UPDATE: Owner, trainer at Off Leash K9 Training in Johnson City charged after family's pet died

Becky Campbell • Updated May 8, 2019 at 8:48 PM

UPDATE ...

The owner of a Johnson City dog training facility and a trainer who works there have been charged with aggravated animal cruelty after a family’s pet died during a two-week residential training period, according to authorities.

Off Leash K9 Training LLC, East TN, is located at 3 Charter Court, Suite B, but according to Tammy Davis, director of operations at the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter, dogs being trained are with their designated trainer 24/7. After the training period, the trainer meets with the owners to discuss the status of the training, but that never happened in this case.

Trainer Andy Hunigan and the owner of the East Tennessee franchise of Off Leash K9 Training, Randi LaFerney, each face one count of aggravated animal cruelty in the dog’s death.

The dog in question, an 8-month old miniature bull terrier that weighed 31 pounds at the beginning of what was supposed to be a two-week stay with his trainer, Hunigan, ended up emaciated, dead and weighing 16 pounds after five weeks, Davis said. Authorities don’t know the exact cause of death, but the pup was sent to the University of Tennessee veterinary school for necropsy.

According to Davis, animal control was notified about a possible cruelty case at Off Leash K9 Training. An animal control officer went to interview the dog’s owners and LaFerney and Hunigan. The dog in question had been taken to Off Leash on March 18 for the two-week training period.

At the end of those two weeks, the trainer contacted the owners and said he needed a little more time working on housebreaking the pup. Over the next few weeks, the owners made attempts to get their dog, but some complication always came up and that never happened.

“The dog was supposed to be picked up Easter weekend, but (Hunigan) was sick,” Davis said. “Their process is that the trainer meets with the dog owners and discuss the training, so that’s why the dog wasn’t picked up at that time. On May 2, the couple received a text message from (LaFerney) asking the dogs owners to call them. At that point, the owners were notified the dog had passed away overnight.”

Davis said she has not been able to confirm rumors that the facility owner offered to have the dog cremated.

“The owners wanted to see the dog,” Davis said. “They met (LaFerney) and viewed the dog from (her) car,” Davis said. “They were speechless when they saw the condition of their dog.”

Davis said there are multiple reasons a dog can lose weight quickly, but this is “an extreme case.”

“There are multiple reasons a dog could lose weight, but in this case, this is very alarming. This is extreme weight loss in a very short period of time,” Davis said. “There are vet records that show the dog was in good health prior to going to the training facility.”

Davis said Hunigan told the dogs owners that it was in a wire crate when he found the dog dead the morning of May 2. According to what Hunigan told authorities, “the dog had pushed on the front of the crate and had his head out of the crate and must have strangled to death.”

Davis and animal control officers don’t believe that’s what happened, and were told “the dog was on an exercise, training and feeding schedule and ate three times a day.”

“My understanding is the dog was crate-trained. I am not aware the dog had previously struggled to get out of a crate,” Davis said. “I would say in any experience I have had with dogs not used to being crated or are unhappy with being crated, they will bark, scrape, dig at the crate, and sometimes they will damage their nails and bleed.

“None of that was seen,” with this dog, she said.

Davis said LaFerney and Hunigan had been contacted, but reported to authorities they were out of town, so the warrants had not been served late Wednesday.

According to Davis, LaFerney owns three other Off Leash training centers, in Texas, North Carolina and Florida. Animal control had no record of ever being called to investigate any incident at the facility.

Here is LaFerney’s biography on the business’ website:

“Randi is well known in the corporate world by making a career as a successful International and Domestic Shopping Center Developer for numerous years. After extensive experience with business sharks, she believes dogs are a piece of cake! Randi has had dogs her whole life, and feels a definite connection with them, having dealt with hundreds of dogs with behavioral issues. She believes by observing a dog’s behavior, they will tell you right where he/she stands emotionally, psychologically and behaviorally. She wants to assist families so their dogs reach optimal and full potential functioning as loving and well-mannered members of the family pack. Randi is a Director of Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, where approximately 360 GSDs a year are assessed, rehabbed and rehomed. She has worked with so many people and dogs (including NON-Shepherds, too!), she recognized she could help more people by opening up an OLK9 Training location!”

A message left on the answering machine at the business was not returned.

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Reported earlier:

The owner of a Johnson City dog training facility and a trainer who works there have been charged with aggravated animal cruelty after a family’s pet died during a two-week residential training period, according to authorities.

Off Leash K9 Training, LLC, East TN. is located on Charter Court. Authorities said the dog died at the trainer’s residence.

Tammy Davis, director of operations at the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter said warrants had been signed by a judge for Randi Laferney, the owner of Off Leash K9 Training, as well as an unnamed trainer. The warrants had not been served on the two because they told authorities they were out of town.

Keep checking with www.JohnsonCityPress.com for details as they become available.

 

 

 

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