DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Rick Ewing stares at a picture of Shon. Shon is a retired police dog from Slovakia. He was very protective of the Ewings.
“He was my family member. That was my best friend and my son’s best friend,” says Ewing as his voice cracks.
Shon died the same way “hundreds, if not thousands” of animals are dying every year in Texas according to Animal Rights Attorney Don Feare.
CBS 11 has learned that deaths and injuries of animals are going unreported in Texas. Animal owners, like Rick Ewing, want their stories told so something is done.
“We thought he’d be safe there,” says Ewing explaining how he boarded Shon in a North Texas kennel for training and daily grooming while the family went on vacation. Less than 24-hours after dropping Shon off, Ewing got a phone call.
“I’d gotten a phone call. One of the local kennel’s employees had told me that he had expired.” Shon had apparently died trying to escape from his kennel.
“He had climbed on top of the fence and got his arm caught on the chain-linked fence and couldn’t get down because of the top pinning.”
The fence pierced Shon’s paw. A veterinarian’s report shows Shon broke his leg struggling to escape. And then the 100-pound dog hung to death.
Feare says he has heard similar stories for nearly two-decades. “It died a horrible death, gasping for air.”
Ewing turned to Feare for help after finding no where else to go. “I went to the Humane Society, the SPCA, animal control, the police department, no one would even fill out a form.” Ewing says he couldn’t get anyone to listen.
“The facility didn’t make sure that the enclosure was built properly for dogs, ” says Ewing.
“It’s a big so what. You’re not regulated in any way.” says Feare who he is angry nothing is being done.
The I-Team has learned in the state of Texas, animal grooming, training, and boarding facilities are not regulated. You can open and operate them with a business license. They are not inspected. No state agency regulates what happens. And, there is no place to report or review complaints.
Feare says, “I’ve been involved in two cases where they bathe the dog and they put the dog in one of these stainless steel holding cages. They got a hot air heater like your hair blower. …Just don’t forget and leave it there because I’ve seen it cook the skin off the dog.”
Feare would not tell us what North Texas businesses he has sued. He said confidentiality agreements prevented him from disclosing that information. However, we turned to the only agency where you can search for complaints on these companies — the Better Business Bureau. We dug through dozens of complaints and we found Ewing’s complaint about Shon.
CBS 11 learned the incident happened at a business with an A-plus rating– Man’s Best Friend in Grand Prairie. We visited there last week. We went in with an undercover camera trying to get answers. A long-time employee told us she would have the owner call me. We still have not heard back from the owner.
President of the SPCA James Bias says “for the most part, it’s buyer beware.” Bias says the pet industry needs a regulatory agency to ensure safety. “You don’t have the ability to have assurance that some agency has established minim standards. And as a result it’s only after a situation when an animal is burned with clippers that are allowed to get to warm or jumping off a grooming table and hanging itself. And those are stories we hear not only in Texas but across the country.”
Bias says some states have enacted laws to regulate these animal businesses, but for now, Texas pet owners, like Ewing, have no place to turn when something goes terribly wrong.
“People say oh its just a dog, but there’s no such thing. They’re animals and they have feelings too. I just hope we can get to a point where these people are regulated and it stops there.”
The I-Team reviewed BBB complaints in North Texas over the last 36 months in 13-counties. According to the BBB records, the following animal boarding, grooming and/or training businesses have received three or more complaints:
Foxy Paws, Plano
Man’s Best Friend, Grand Prairie
Man’s Best Friend, Carrollton
Bark and Purr, Dallas
Kennel Kare, Roanoke