7 On Your Side warns that some viewers may find some of the images in the video above disturbing.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Stories of dogs being abused, going missing or even dying while in the care of a dog trainer have led to calls for reform. Still, the industry is largely unregulated.
Inspired by a series of stories from 7 On Your Side, the California legislature passed the first ever regulations of the dog training industry last year. However, calls for the licensing of dog trainers remain unanswered. 7 On Your Side warns that some viewers may find some of the images in the video above disturbing.
Carolina Bruchilari of Palo Alto sent her 7-year-old German shepherd, Scott, for board and training to a woman she found online through Thumbtack.
Two weeks later, the trainer supposedly returned Scott to her two children while she remained on vacation.
"My kids called me and said, 'Mom. This is not Scott,'" said Bruchilari.
Bruchilari said the trainer at first denied she had returned the wrong dog, but later said she had a family emergency and left Scott in the care of a third person. The trainer said Scott ran away.
"She told me maybe he's dead because that third person found blood and a broken window," said Bruchilari.
The Palo Alto Police Department confirms it is now investigating that trainer and plans to turn the case over to the district attorney. Because the trainer has not been named a suspect, 7 On Your Side is not identifying her. She did not return numerous texts and emails for comment.
Bruchilari's story is similar to that of Megan Badger who hasn't seen her dog, Winston, since leaving him with dog trainer Antoine Deshaun Moore. He now faces felony animal cruelty charges in Placer County.
Another dog trainer, Benjamin Friedenberg, is serving six years in prison for grand theft and consumer fraud.
Lauren Myers of Watsonville left her dog Thor in Moore's care. Friedenberg never returned Thor and even after being convicted, refuses to say what happened to the dog.
Other dog trainers have been accused of abusing dogs and even killing them.
7 On Your Side obtained photos from former employees of a dog trainer with companies in both California and Nevada.
Those employees say the trainer leaves dogs malnourished and in filthy condition. 7 On Your Side showed the photos to the Las Vegas Humane Society.
"The dog seemed a little bit malnourished. I'm not sure if he was needing some type of -- it just seemed so depressed. You know, it seemed like it needed some type of attention as an affection," said Richard Villa of Las Vegas Humane Society.
7 On Your Side also showed them a video of the trainer yanking the dog by the collar.
"But grabbing by the head, pulling up on it. You're choking the dog. That's not necessary," said Villa.
Last year, a bill signed by the governor and authored by then Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian instituted the first-ever regulations of dog trainers. It mandated that trainers reveal any criminal convictions or civil judgments related to their business.
However, a provision that would have mandated dog trainers obtain a license was stripped from the bill under intense lobbying from the American Kennel Club.
The AKC sells highly coveted registration of purebreds which the latest tax records publicly available indicates netted the group $41 million in revenue in 2019.
Judie Mancuso of the animal rights lobbying group Social Compassion in Legislation questions the motives of the AKC.
"There's the people who want to protect animals and then there's the people who are businesses, organizations who are making money off animals," said Mancuso.
AKC says it had no room in its schedule for an on-camera interview, but by email said it also provides programs for dogs and their owners, legislative work and continued education for breeders. It also says its donated $65 million since 1995.
It accumulated net assets of $71 million in 2019 and its top executives earned $3.8 million.
"This is all about organizations, businesses, people making money off animals and trying to make sure that it stays that way," said Mancuso.
Mancuso says the American Kennel Club has made alliances with such big lobbying groups as the National Rifle Association, the Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen's Association, adding to its political power.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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