Our sister station CBS 17 has been investigating Apex non-profit Ry-Con Service Dogs since the beginning of the year.
The dog training industry isn’t regulated. Anyone can legally work as a dog trainer, but now at least two states have filed bills to change that.
CBS 17’s Kelly Kennedy asked former Ry-Con employee Kenyetta Redmond if she felt like she was qualified to train service dogs.
“No,” Redmond said. “I had no clue what I was doing,”
“Anybody can self-label themselves as a dog trainer,” said Meagan Thomas, a professional dog trainer with All Dogs Allowed. “At this point, it’s up to lawmakers and trainers to have a unified voice to have safety regulations put into place to help the public understand who is a dog trainer and who is a charlatan.”
North Carolina Sen. Pricey Harrison said she plans to file a bill next session to hold trainers accountable.
“I’m just surprised anybody could set up shop and start selling service dogs,” Harrison said. “That’s a real problem, and I would advocate for setting up a licensing authority.”
North Carolina would follow other states like Massachusetts and New Jersey. Massachusetts Sen. Nick Collins said he filed a bill after learning of former Patriots player Jerod Mayo’s experience with a dog trainer.
Mayo’s wife, Chantel, said the family signed their bulldog up for a two-week training session with what they thought was a reputable company. The trainer told the Mayos their dog went missing. After a couple of months of searching, the Mayos said it was found in the trainer’s house in a trash bag.
“It seems like every month, a dog is dying,” said Thomas.
Liz Machaffie is the owner of Animal Insight in Raleigh. She’s been training dogs for over a decade.
“I happened to meet one of the Ry-Con dogs before the stories actually came out. And I was really upset and just bothered by the idea that, hey, this is a service dog and a family with a child with autism. And it’s fearfully, fearfully aggressive towards people, and this is a dog that needs to go out in the public and be around other humans,” Machaffie said.
These dog trainers said that, before choosing any trainer, make sure to tour their facility, interview them, and ask to sit in on a dog training session.
“It’s really disheartening, and I think it just speaks volumes for how much needs to be done so we can get to a place where this doesn’t happen to people and this doesn’t happen to dogs,” said Machaffie.