WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES AND LANGUAGE!!
Unless you didn’t have internet access last week or don’t read every post about dogs on Facebook, you probably know about and/or have seen the video of a trainer at the Academy of Canine Behavior in Bothell repeatedly hitting a dog two years ago with a plastic baseball bat during a “training session.”
Here’s a link to the video in case you missed it.
The video contains disturbing images that will horrify anyone with an ounce of compassion for animals.
WASHINGTON’S WEAK ANIMAL CRUELY LAWS
Someone anonymously sent the video to Snohomish County Animal Services about 3 weeks ago.
The agency opened an investigation and conducted an unannounced visit to the Academy of Canine Behavior to interview the “trainer” in the video and inspect the facility.
Animal Services told Q13 that “their investigation concluded the trainer’s behavior towards the dog did not rise to the level of animal cruelty, as defined by law.”
Unfortunately, this is true – Washington’s animal cruelty laws are notoriously weak.
According to RCW 16.52.205, “A person is guilty of animal cruelty in the first degree when, except as authorized in law, he or she intentionally
(a) inflicts substantial pain on,
(b) causes physical injury to, or
(c) kills an animal by a means causing undue suffering or while manifesting an extreme indifference to life, or forces a minor to inflict unnecessary pain, injury, or death on an animal.
Most dog lovers, including myself, would say the pain was substantial, especially if you consider the mental pain the dog suffered.
However, “substantial pain” is a vague standard that lawyers can interpret in a number of ways.
This is one reason why, in my experience, some animal control agencies won’t prosecute animal abuse; they don’t want to spend the time and money on a case they don’t think they can win.
OWNERS DENY TRAINERS ABUSE DOGS
The “trainer” in the video is Carie Taylor. Before someone publicly posted the video, the Academy of Canine Behavior listed her as a “senior trainer.”
The owners issued this statement in response to the hailstorm of criticism this video generated.
In it they said they knew nothing about the video or the incident until Animal Services contacted them about it. They reassigned Taylor to a non-dog related position after seeing it and fired her after they saw the video on Monday.
In an interview with Q13 Fox this week, reporter Jamie Tomkins asked facility co-owner Colleen McDaniel if hitting animals is “part of the training.”
First, Ms. McDaniel answered “no.” But then she qualified her answer by saying, “Has it ever been done? Of course it has, but it better be justified.”
OK, if they only hit dogs with plastic bats when it is “justified,” they must train people to do it, right?
How else would they know when hitting a dog is justified?
Also, if hitting the dog was not justified, why didn’t anyone stop it? Why were some people laughing? And why didn’t anyone report it to the owners?
DOG ABUSE INGRAINED IN CULTURE
Based on what former dog trainers told me, using harmful training methods and mistreating the dogs has been a common practice for years and is ingrained in the culture at the Academy of Canine Behavior.
I’ve written about several shady dog rescues in Washington. In every case, adopters, potential adopters or former volunteers consistently made similar observations.
A statement from one person who adopted a dog with parvovirus from a rescue doesn’t carry much weight. Multiple statements from people who adopted dogs with parvovirus created a strong narrative that was difficult to disprove.
The statements from former Academy of Canine Behavior trainers also have commonalities.
More than one described these forms of abuse the trainers inflicted on the dogs:
- dragging dogs wearing pinch collars down hallways
- lifting dogs wearing pinch collars by their leashes and holding them in the air
- screaming at the dogs
Significantly, you’ll see that more than one ex-employee says they witnessed AOCB staff beating dogs with plastic bats.
Some them also said the kennels had mold and maggots.
So far, three former trainers contacted me to say what they observed while working there. I edited their statements for space and clarity and added bolding and italics.
I also posted screenshots of statements from other former trainers I found online.
When you read them, I think you’ll notice similar themes tying them together. That’s why, in my opinion, they tell a powerful story that paints a disturbing picture.
They also contradict many of the McDaniel’s claims.
So does a statement about a minute into this video by man who lives next to AOCB. He made it to protesters outside the facility last Friday:
“We hear them yelling at the dogs to shut the fuck up at 3:30 at night. We hear yelps. They abuse the hell out of the dogs. This metal building? They put hundred of dogs in it during the holiday season.”
Based on statements from ex-employees, Snohomish County Animal Services reopened its investigation into AOCB.
It asked anyone who witnessed abuse at AOCB to contact them at email@example.com or 425-388-3440.
Many people will be watching to see if Animal Services once again lets AOCB gets off scot free or holds the facility accountable for abusing dogs.
Statements from Former Employees
Mandy Liora (2011 until July 2013)
Colleen claims that her staff use this harsh training method (hitting dogs with plastic bats) only on extremely dangerous dogs or dogs scheduled for euthanization.
This is a lie.
Just a few weeks ago, one of my sources personally witnessed a trainer beating a boxer puppy with a whiffle ball bat.
When I was at the Academy of Canine Behavior I saw staff using these methods on all variety of dogs.
Things I personally witnessed:
Trainers used excessive force used against dogs like dragging them down hallways on pinch collars, sliding and screaming, because their trainer lost their temper.
A senior staff member kicked a dog in the ribs and hips.
Trainers lifted dogs up by their leashes (some wore pinch collars) and jerked repeatedly until they screamed and peed themselves. I can still remember the hysterical rage in that trainer’s voice as she screamed at that dog, jerking him around and berating him for peeing where he wasn’t supposed to.
Some type of bugs, maybe maggots, are in the walls. It isn’t constant, but periodically water will leak down inside the walls and those nasty little guys will fester and eventually come falling out of cracks.
The ceiling is full of mold. Or, at least, it was when I was there. The black kind.
AOCB has a severe over-crowding issue. They are supposed to cap off at approximately 170 dogs, and even that is pushing it.
However, many of us were witness to 200, 200+ capacity days, particularly around holidays.
I spoke to a woman who worked there over 20 years ago. She said she saw Colleen rip a dog off the ground by a leash/pinch collar and swing it around. After her staff got up and walked out of the demonstration, she threatened to fire them if they ever walked out like that again.
Liz Walker (May – June, 2013)
“I worked at The Academy of Canine Behavior for about 3 months before making the decision to quit for the sake of my own mental health. Someone needs to investigate it and shut down immediately.
They kept the dogs in damp, dark, and disgusting kennels. There was mold and mildew in the cracks of the concrete floors. The whole facility was a health code violation.
If any dogs would bark other employees would yell “shut the fuck up!” while throwing metal dog bowls down the hallways to make loud noises to scare the dogs. Or they sprayed dogs with a hose to scare them quiet.
The dogs boarded there were terrified and traumatized. OACB charged extra for their “board & spoils” option where the dog was supposed to receive extra enrichment, walks, and time out in their exercise yards. However, they rarely ever took the dogs out of the kennels.
And when they had us walk the dogs it was a less than 5 minute walk around a small grass field.
Additionally, without owner consent, they kenneled dogs from different owners together throughout the day and overnight with no supervision. They were overbooked and over crowded with dogs and frequently over the legal limit.
I felt horribly depressed after working there for such a short time. I can’t even imagine how the poor dogs under their care must have felt.
In regards to the video that sparked this outrage, I am not at all surprised to learn that their lead trainer treats the dogs this way as I had heard many rumors about their training program, though I am completely appalled and disgusted by her actions. No one should hit an animal with ANYTHING.
Statement from Former Trainer Who Wants to Remain Anonymous (April-October, 2017)
I’d like to make reports of animal abuse and unsanitary conditions as a former employee of the Academy of Canine Behavior.
I witnessed first hand an employee mishandling a Husky for not coming inside. He walked out to the outside area of the kennel run and aggressively grabbed the dog by it’s neck/scruff. The dog started screaming immediately as he lifted it off the ground walked over to the inside kennel guillotine door and threw the husky inside. Then proceeded to yell and cuss at it to “stay the fuck inside” as he closed the guillotine.
I reported it to my manager during my next shift. She said someone would handle it. When nothing came out of it I talked to my manager again. She told me other people filed similar complaints against THE SAME EMPLOYEE. I was then informed the employee could not be fired or wouldn’t be because he had been with the company for 15 years and he was reliable and consistent which is what mattered most to the owners.
I frequently told management other staff did not clean kennel areas properly. Eventually, maggots filled the holes in the floors of the Out Runs. Specifically the hole in the first kennel to the right of Outrun 4.