WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — After a dog died the care of a local training facility, the owner and one of the business’s trainers will have their case heard by a grand jury.
Off Leash K9 Training Owner Randi LaFerney and trainer Andrew Hunigan are both facing charges of aggravated animal cruelty.
A Washington County judge determined in a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning that there is probable cause to move forward with the case in criminal court.
Brian and Susan Arnold’s dog, Dallas, passed away in May. The owners spoke out for the first time Wednesday during the hearing.
“When you take your pet to a facility like this you expect that they’re looking out for your pet’s best interest,” said Brian. “Why would they be in that business if they were not?”
Susan recalled the moment she first saw her deceased dog, about six weeks after she first dropped him off with Hunigan.
“I uncovered the blanket and I couldn’t believe what I saw. He was skin and bones,” she said.
LaFerney allegedly told the couple that Dallas died after he got caught in a wire kennel and strangled himself overnight.
A necropsy report determined the cause of death was starvation and dehydration. Veterinary records show Dallas lost about half of his body weight during his time with Hunigan.
”That’s the very definition of aggravated cruelty,” said Assistant District Attorney Michael Rasnick.
Attorney Daniel Boyd, representing Hunigan, said there was a small amount of food in Dallas’s stomach.
“He [Hunigan] did not withhold food from the dog. You have a dog that’s described as stubborn and what’s happened is the dog was under stress due to being away from his owners,” said Boyd. “As a result of that, he refused to eat.”
“If he was provided food and he wasn’t eating food and he was getting in that shape then obviously they should’ve taken him to get medical attention,” said Brian Arnold.
Attorney Richard Spivey, representing LaFerney, argued the dog was in Hunigan’s care and charges against her should be dismissed.
“She had no control over that dog. She did not commit any acts of cruelty,” Spivey said. “Simply because you’re the owner of a business does not mean you’re criminally responsible for either the acts of your independent contractors or your employees.”
LaFerney and Hunigan will be arraigned in criminal court on September 27.