JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The owner of Off Leash K9 Training has had her charges of animal cruelty dismissed in Washington County, Tennessee.
According to District Attorney General Ken Baldwin, on Thursday morning, Randi LaFerney’s charge of aggravated animal cruelty was dropped in Washington County Circuit Court.
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LaFerney and a trainer at the facility faced aggravated animal cruelty charges after a dog’s reported death occurred at the facility in 2019.
The trainer, Andrew Hunigan, still faces his aggravated animal cruelty charge.
Baldwin said in court that LaFerney’s tampering with evidence charge will still be pursued.
“Our best course in this case was to pursue the tampering charge on Ms. LaFerney and the aggravated animal cruelty to animals charge on the co-defendant,” he said.
Baldwin said the decision comes after a months-long investigation by the district attorney’s office and conversations with the owners of the 8-month-old miniature bull terrier at the center of the case.
LaFerney’s attorney Rick Spivey provided a statement following the hearing.
“Randi LaFerney was publicly exonerated and vindicated today for the animal cruelty charges, she is not guilty of the tampering with evidence charges,” said Spivey. “Television and newspapers have vilified this lady, social media idiots have vilified her, they should be publicly ashamed and embarrassed the same way she has been.”
“In the United States of America, a person is innocent until proven guilty,” he added.
Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter Director of Operations Tammy Davis said the decision to dismiss the charge is disappointing.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said, “we still feel very confident that we will be able to move forward with the tampering with evidence, so as long as we can get some kind of justice.”
“Hopefully going forward, we can improve the law protecting animals in our state, that’s something I feel strongly about, so that other pet owners don’t have to go through the same heartbreak that this pet owner did,” she added.
Following Thursday morning’s court appearance, LaFerney announced on social media that despite that charge being dismissed, she will be closing her Johnson City Off the Leash facility.
LaFerney posted a statement on the Off the Leash Facebook page and said she thinks the charge should have never been filed in the first place.
“It has left me exhausted, mentally, physically, and financially, and quite frankly, disenchanted with this community who chooses to believe the false allegations,” she said about the process of the investigation.
Both Hunigan and LaFerny are due back in court on February 28 at 11 a.m.
This is a developing story. Stay with News Channel 11 online and on-air for updates.