The owner of a former dog training facility charged in the starvation death of a dog enrolled in a residential obedience program had the final charge against her dismissed in Washington County Criminal Court Wednesday.
Randi Laferney, 55, owner of Off Leash K9 Training East Tennessee, and trainer Andrew “Andy” Hunigan, 28, were charged in 2019 with one count each of aggravated animal cruelty after an 8-month-old bull terrier named Dallas died in Hunigan’s care.
LaFerney later faced an additional charge of tampering with evidence, resulting from an allegation she attempted to have the dog cremated without the owner’s consent.
Her attorneys, Rick and Matthew Spivey, had already secured a dismissal of the animal cruelty charge Laferney faced, but the state had proceeded with the tampering charge.
The Spiveys filed a motion to dismiss the tampering charge, citing lack of evidence to show that at all. They presented testimony from the preliminary hearing where one of the dog’s owners testified that Laferney offered to pay for an autopsy on the dog as well as cremation.
When that call was taking place, Laferney was apparently already on her way to an area crematory service, but after the owners said they wanted the dog back, she met them to turn him over to them.
After hearing arguments from Matthew Spivey and Assistant District Attorney General Ryan Curtis, Judge Lisa Rice said the state’s evidence didn’t meet the burden for the prosecution to go forward.
The pivotal point Rice had to determine was if Laferney knew there was a pending investigation about the dog’s death when she decided to take it to a crematory.
“The stipulated facts and the preliminary hearing transcript don’t support” that the required mental state was there on the attempt.
“The court finds that, based on existing law as to tampering with evidence, the law that exists as to the intent statute, the mental state that would be required to be proven and the application of the acts to that law to where an autopsy is offered, the victims are contacted,” the proof of an attempted crime doesn’t exist, Rice concluded.
“You can’t let the shocking picture of the dog be the ruling factor in (Laferney’s) case,” Rice said.
After the hearing, Rick Spivey said his client was glad the case is over.
“She suffered great financial and emotional loss because she was wrongfully charged,” Rick Spivey said. “The television stations and social media should be ashamed of what they’ve done to her. Justice was served, but it was served way too late in this case.”