HONOLULU (KHON2) — Heartbreak and anger for a Makiki woman whose dog died in the care of a trainer. The business said it was an unfortunate incident, but a long time animal trainer added it never should have happened, and there are lessons to be learned from it.
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Gabriella Wilson-Rytting still can’t believe the news that her German Shepherd – Whiskey – is no longer around.
“He was only two, he definitely had a lot longer life to live than just two years old and that was taken away from him,” she said.
She enrolled Whiskey for a 10-day immersion training class at Exceptional Obedience in Waianae. She said she paid nearly $3,000. The trainer told her on Saturday that Whiskey and four other dogs died from heat exhaustion while they were held in a 20-foot shipping container. It had an air conditioner but the trainer said the circuit breaker tripped while he was away.
“I can’t even imagine the way that they ended up suffering in the end, a long, slow heat stroke, that’s not fair,” said Gabriella.
The trainer who owns the business provided us with a picture of the container. KHON2 does not know when it was taken. He didn’t want our team to shoot the facility. He added that three of the dogs that died were his.
“I’m just kicking myself right now. I’ve been doing so for the last few days. The set up has been an existence for years and I’ve never had an issue with it,” said Leonard Letoto, owner of Exceptional Obedience.
Letoto said he leaves dogs in the container all the time and there’s never been a problem. Gabriella believes he was negligent for doing so. She’s filed a police report. The Hawaiian Humane Society is also investigating.
“I totally understand where she’s coming from, but I can’t see how I was necessarily just blatantly negligent in that situation,” said Letoto.
Gabriella said she never would have left Whiskey there if she knew he would be kept in a shipping container. Dog trainers told us it’s important for dog owners to do as much research as possible.
“I would always, number one, go there in person with your dog to see what the vibe is like and to see if this is a safe situation,” said Susan Luehrs, a long time trainer of service dogs.
Luehrs adds that the dogs should never have been left alone.
“You’re paying money for someone to board your dog and train your dog. I would expect that there would be some type of supervision 24 hours,” she said.
“Why wasn’t there another person checking on these dogs? Why isn’t there a surveillance camera? Why were they left alone for that long when I’m paying you to train my dog?” said Gabriella.
Letoto said he plans on making some changes. KHON2 will follow up.