Legislator calls for oversight as dog trainers are reported for neglect, services not rendered

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Friday, December 20, 2019
Calls for oversight as dog trainers accused of neglect, services not rendered
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A crackdown is expected to be proposed in the new year on dog training businesses after several reports of neglect or charging for services not fulfilled.

SAN RAMON, Calif. (KGO) -- A crackdown is expected to be proposed in the new year on dog training businesses in California. Our coverage of this issue has attracted the attention of a Bay Area Assemblywoman who would like to see greater oversight of the dog trainers. We now know of at least three cases in Contra Costa County where dog trainers are accused of either neglect or charging for services not fulfilled.

We caught up with Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan of the Tri-Valley at a dog park in San Ramon. A dog owner herself, she's been troubled by the bad experiences some of her constituents say they've had with dog trainers.

"We aren't doing everything we can to protect animals in the way we protect individuals in our community and they deserve it," said Bauer-Kahan.

Back in July, she saw our story about Gary Reynolds and Devon Ashby of NorCal K-9. Reynolds is facing eight felony counts of animal abuse and neglect. Ashby recently accepted a plea deal and is expected to plead to a misdemeanor violation of animal cruelty.

Prosecutors say eight dogs under their care were found under duress and in poor health from neglect. One of those dogs, Gunnar, died.

RELATED: Two dog deaths spark concern about lack of regulations for dog trainers

Ashby's attorneys have not commented, but Reynold's attorney told 7 On Your Side that Gunnar's death was not foreseeable because the temperature was only 74 degrees.

We've since learned that Ashby has agreed to testify against his co-defendant. Depending on his testimony, his possible sentence could be reduced to three years probation and 45 days in-home detention.

The Assemblywoman also saw our story about a family in San Ramon, Jane and Lance Creswell.

Their dog Kenzi died while being boarded and cared for by a woman named Dawn Smith last year after Kenzi was attacked by another dog. They say their other dog Dolly was critically injured.

Smith has previously told ABC7 she believes Kenzi escaped from his kennel while she was out shopping. ABC7 has not been able to make contact with Smith since last summer.

Creswell says promises by Smith to pay $26,000 in veterinary costs have been broken.

"It's bigger than that. What I'm concerned about from the general public, is that dog trainers and boarders apparently do not have to have any credentials or qualifications," she said.

We spoke with eight organizations that credential dog trainers and none of those could find any certification for Smith, although none is required.

Creswell met with Bauer-Kahan's staff about a new bill likely to be introduced in January that calls for greater oversight of the dog training industry.

"We're taking a long hard look at how we can best regulate these trainers to make sure that animals are well taken care of," the Assemblywoman said.

RELATED: Santa Clara couple says dog died in care of local trainer

Jordyn Gingrich operated Innovative K9 in Contra Costa County. Her client Brian Foisy sued Gingrich in small claims court alleging his dog Izzy "almost died" while being boarded and trained by Gingrich. The suit alleged Izzy returned from his stay "untrained and underweight."

Foisy said she returned Izzy to him at just 11 pounds, less than half his weight.

"She could not climb stairs. She couldn't go up a single step. We had to lift her up a single step. She couldn't jump on the couch. She couldn't do anything, she was so weak," said Foisy.

He won a $2,800 judgment against Gingrich when she failed to appear in court to defend herself.

Gingrich declined to speak on camera, but several months ago denied to 7 On Your Side any dogs in her care lost weight. She says she would pay Foisy and 6 others who successfully sued in small claims court for breach of contract.

Mandy Hemeon and Shanani Francisco were two of the other six who won their cases.

"I would get no calls, no shows for appointments," said Hemeon.

"What are the consequences for her ultimately. That's what I'm feeling," wondered Francisco.

Three months after Gingrich promised to pay her judgments, they say none have been paid.

Gingrich has not responded to those allegations.

Ultimately most people we talked to said it was about the protection of the animals.

"We don't want dogs to suffer the same fate that Gunnar suffered," said Bauer-Kahan.

We'll report when the new bill is introduced and will stay on top of all these cases.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.