LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — This is the third time this year alone that we've discovered a serious problem with a dog trainer. 13 Investigates continues to examine what is lacking in the animal training industry.
What's lacking is regulation, oversight, and training of the trainers. We found there's no education or training required to become a dog trainer. Trainers can choose to become certified professionals, but very few do.
We trust them with our furry family members, but in Nevada and just about everywhere else, no one is regulating or overseeing dog trainers to ensure they know how to train and treat the dogs in their care.
"We definitely have concerns about the lack of regulation that is in our industry as a whole," says Nick Hof, Chairman of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). "A lot of these trainers, who are making the news, are trainers who lack proper training, lack credentials, or proper knowledge of what good, ethical dog training is."
According to APDT, Hillsboro County, Florida, is currently the only place that requires dog trainers to be licensed. Legislation has been attempted in New York and New Jersey but hasn't yet passed.
The city of Las Vegas requires anyone who runs a commercial kennel or dog training facility to get a professional animal handler permit.
That comes with a $50 fee for Animal Control to do a facility inspection and if you pass, you get the permit, which must be renewed with a new inspection once a year. Otherwise, any oversight is purely complaint-driven.
"When trainers are putting forth methods or techniques that are inappropriate--that cause fear, harm or increases in aggression--it does a great disservice to that pet owner, to that dog and to our industry as a whole," says Hof with APDT.
And that lack of regulation can have consequences.
"By the time the veterinarian shaved it down I was... I was mortified," says Annette Mansfield.
In January, we reported on how a family's pricey investment in training for their rescue dog turned into a nightmare when their dog, Oreo, was returned with burns, wounds and scars.
"I've been blaming myself. I been crying a lot," says Annette. "I'm so sorry for what happened to him."
Local dog trainer Billy Salcido at Sit Means Sit lost his franchise license after our expose of what happened to Oreo during an immersion training program at Salcido's home.
"This cannot happen!" cries Annette. "This cannot happen to another animal."
"I miss my dog every day," says Wendy Span. "My husband misses our dog every day, and I know Kopi does too."
As 13 Investigates reported, the golden retriever Wendy called her first son died last summer while in the care of dog trainer Ricky Allen Davis--who isn't even licensed to do business.
"We were devastated," says Wendy. "I can't even tell you the feelings. I just broke into tears when he called."
A necropsy showed Woody's likely cause of death was heat stroke. Ricky Davis has been charged with felony animal cruelty, and that case is ongoing. So how do you protect yourself when hiring a trainer? Ask questions.
Hof with APDT says, "These should include; 'what qualifications do you have for working with my dog? What training do you have? Do you have any sort of certifications? Have you been attending any continuing education? What are you going to be doing to teach my dog? What are you going to be doing if my dog is getting things wrong?'"
13 Investigates search reveals that within 50 miles of Las Vegas, there are only two certified trainers.
The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants tells us it "is committed to working together with policymakers to introduce robust legislation that protects clients, dogs, and qualified professionals. See IAABC's recent position statement for more details.