Puppy injured during K9 off-leash training
LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Lucky has been through a lot in his short life.
“I picked her up from a shelter. She was already in bad shape when I picked her up,” Taemee Feuer said.
A stomach full of stones led to emergency surgery.
“I lay next to her while she didn’t move. You could hear the rocks churning.”
When she recovered from the operation, “she really needed practice”.
Feuer paid nearly $3,400 for a two-week plank and train program with Off Leash K9 Training.
“And what I got was a scared, scared, hurt puppy.”
During Lucky’s training, Feuer would receive videos and photos keeping her updated on the pup’s progress.
In a text exchange with the business owner, she comments that Lucky looks anxious.
He agrees she’s “not a very happy pup” and says he and his partner are looking after her.
Then, “The day before I come, I get a text message from the coach,” Feuer said.
The text notes ‘irritation’ on Lucky’s neck, saying: ‘The vet said it was a rash’.
“And I said no, it’s not a rash. It’s something from the collar you use.”
The type of electronic collar used on Lucky had two prongs consistent with injuries to the dog’s neck – injuries the vet diagnosed as electrical burns.
“It feels like neglect to me. It feels like bedsores, like the collar was left on too long,” coach Antonio Diaz of Leader of the Pack said.
We first met him in 2019 when he volunteered his time to repair damaged trust after another family’s dog went for immersive training with Sit Means Sit and came back with injuries and unexplained neck injuries from an electronic collar.
“In this industry, there aren’t a lot of regulations,” Diaz said.
In Nevada and just about everywhere else, no one regulates or supervises dog trainers to make sure they know how to train and treat the animals in their care. No training or license is required.
“On top of that, you can never really know what someone is capable or unable to do,” Diaz said.
13 Investigations first came to light Off Leash K9 Training three years ago after video surfaced of veteran dog trainer Willie Harrell appearing to threaten a leashed dog with a baseball bat while swearing and giving commands.
Harrell said he never hit or abused the dog.
When North Las Vegas police opened an investigation, other dog owners reported that their pets had been abused while at Off Leash – malnourished, matted and, like Lucky, with wounds to the neck.
According to a veterinary report we included in our 2019 story involving a dog named Patrick, there were concerns about a shock collar being used by the trainer. The vet observed scabs all over her neck – a total of four of them appearing to be from burn lesions.
“From what they told me, it was from using the shock collar to the point where it actually burned her skin,” dog owner Eric Watts said in 2019.
Harrell has been stripped of its franchise license and Off Leash K9 Training is now under new ownership.
Off Leash owner Tom McGovern texted Feuer after Lucky was injured, apologizing and writing: “Please let me know if there is anything else I can do “I feel awful. If you find another trainer that you are comfortable with, I’d love to cover up to a big expense. I’m so sorry about that.”
When Feuer finally found another manager and tried to accept that offer, “He blocked me! He blocked me, and the manager too, so I couldn’t even get in touch with him anymore.”
McGovern declined to appear on camera for this story. He sent a statement saying: “Once I became aware of the situation, I did my best to put things right. I fully reimbursed the client, and framed and reprimanded my trainer so that the situation will not happen again. We (including this specific trainer) have received many positive reviews and compliments on our services since this incident.”
He pointed to the many testimonials on his website and YouTube channel, saying they represent the vast majority of his customers.
As for Lucky, she recycles herself and learns to trust.