Since the Monday arrest of Cleveland dog trainer Stephen Kinder on four counts of cruelty to animals, additional customers have come forward to allege mistreatment of their pets.The arrest stems from …
Since the Monday arrest of Cleveland dog trainer Stephen Kinder on four counts of cruelty to animals, additional customers have come forward to allege mistreatment of their pets.
The arrest stems from a complaint by an Atlanta woman, who alleges Kinder mistreated her dog when it was in is possession to receive training.
In addition, the Cleveland Daily Banner has learned of a lawsuit filed by a Catoosa County, Georgia, couple against the dog trainer, claiming breach of contract.
Kinder, 42, the owner of Kinder Dog Training, was arrested by the Cleveland Police Department and transported to the Bradley County Jail, where he was later released after posting a $1,250 bond.
He operates the business with his wife, Morgan Kinder.
According to Abigail Eastburn, of Atlanta, Kinder Dog Training was hired to train her 6-month-old Great Dane, Dunkin. In a Facebook post, Eastburn said she had to rush her dog to a veterinarian after she picked him up on Sunday.
Kinder had been in possession of her dog since Dec. 17.
“Tonight [Sunday] we picked him up seven weeks later despite requests to keep him longer and had to rush him to the emergency vet," Eastburn wrote.
She alleged that her dog had been abused by Kinder.
“He is severely dehydrated, emaciated and abused,” Eastern wrote. “You can’t imagine what we are going through ... and I hope that you never have to.”
Kinder’s dog training business is located at Cleveland-Bradley Business Incubator, located at Cleveland State Community College.
According to a CPD arrest report, Eastburn’s mother, Sasha Eastburn, “stated that her daughter had arranged a four-week training session with Kinder Dog Training for basic obedience training.”
The arrangement was to include boarding and caring for the dog for the duration of the training, according to the report.
The dog was dropped off at Kinder Dog Training at 3575 Adkisson Drive on Dec. 17, the mother stated.
In the CPD report, Eastburn’s mother stated her daughter was contacted by Kinder who said “he was trying to work through some issues with the dog and would like to extend the training for an additional week at no charge.”
The training was continued for two more weeks making the training a total of seven weeks, the report stated.
The mother said at the end of the seven weeks, Kinder tried to extend again. The mother and daughter refused.
When Kinder agreed to meet her in Dalton, Georgia, to return the dog, it appeared “very malnourished,” the report stated.
The dog weighed “approximately 95 pounds” when it was left in the care of Kinder, according to Eastburn. However, when the dog was picked up seven weeks later, a veterinarian said the dog weighed 64 pounds, the report stated.
In addition, the dog’s fur was “stained from lying in feces and urine,” with “several sores on his legs that had not been present before.”
After picking up the dog, it was taken to a veterinarian in Chattanooga for treatment.
While transporting the dog to the veterinarian, he had “episodes of vomiting and diarrhea,” Eastburn said.
The veterinarian noted the dog was suffering form poor nutrition, parasite infection, bacterial/viral infection, maldigestion and inflammatory bowel disease, according to the report.
Before-and-after photos of the dog show the effects of illness caused by the alleged maltreatment.
“His bone structure is very pronounced through his skin,” Eastburn stated. “You can also see staining on his feet and legs as well as open sores.”
The dog has since been transferred to his regular veterinarian in Atlanta.
He's snuggled on my lap
Abigail Eastburn spoke to the Banner from her home in Atlanta Tuesday. She said Dunkin is recovering, but still weak.
"He's snuggled on my lap,” Eastburn said.
Eastburn said it will be a long process before Dunkin is fully recovered. Although the dog has an appetite, Eastburn said she must only feed him small portions of food because he cannot yet easily digest larger portions safely.
She said the veterinarian told her Dunkin will be stunted for life due to the abuse at the Kinders’ business.
The dog has tested negative for worms, as well as diseases such as Parvo. As for now, the dog’s weakened state has resulted in difficulty walking.
“He walks like a new foal,” Eastburn said.
Of the Kinders, Eastburn said she could not understand how someone could mistreat a dog.
“I never thought someone would do this,” Eastburn said.
"He was like an old dog"
Another customer, Philip Radford of Dalton, told the Banner he had experienced a similar situation when he hired Kinder’s company to train his 3-year-old St. Bernard named Tom Brady.
Radford said Kinder’s services were recommended to him by an acquaintance.
“I wanted the best training for my dog,” Radford said, adding that had had the dog since it was 8 weeks old. “I didn’t want to cut any corners.”
Radford said Kinder charged $1,600 for five weeks of training.
When it was time to drop off his dog, Radford said Kinder’s wife insisted they meet in a retail store parking lot to hand off the dog, instead of Radford driving to Cleveland.
“I should have known something was up,” said Radford, who continues to berate himself for ignoring red flags.
After two weeks, Radford said he felt that “something was off.”
He visited the Kinders’ training facility and they reluctantly brought out his dog, who reeked of feces and urine. They told him they wanted to keep the dog for a longer time, but he refused.
When Radford finally saw his dog, he was shocked.
“I have never seen such a disheveled animal,” Radford said.
His St. Bernard was now an emaciated, timid dog covered in cuts, scratches and urine stains.
“He wasn’t excited to see me,” Radford said. “It was like he was in a daze.”
Strangley, the dog had dried shampoo in its fur.
“They said he got dirty and tried to give him a bath,” Radford said.
When he and his dog returned home, Redford said he had to coax the canine to drink water, as well as eat. Like Eastburn’s dog, his St. Bernard began throwing up.
Radford said he feels guilty about what happened to his dog.
“I feel ashamed and guilty,” Radford said. “He went through 3 1/2 weeks of hell.”
Radford said he wants the Kinders to be held accountable for their actions.
“This is a crime,” Radford said. “They broke down those dogs mentally. They don’t deserve to be in business, or around dogs.”
After much care and love, Radford said his dog is healthy now, but is skittish after its experience.”
“He’s scared of everything now,” Radford said.
"We will pursue legal action”
Austin Coker and his wife told the Banner that their goldendoodle, Louie, had a similar experience while in possession of the Kinders.
The Cokers, who are also from Dalton, said they dropped off their dog for a two-week training session with the Kinders.
He said the Kinders also wanted to delay him from picking up his dog and offered a third week of training for free, claiming that their dog was still acting “hyper.”
Coker said he was permitted to visit Louie each week until the third week when the Kinders became reluctant to let him see his dog.
“That’s when things got fishy,” Coker said. “There was always some reason I couldn't see my dog.”
Coker said he and his wife were due to pick up his dog on Friday when he first heard the news about Eastburn’s dog.
“We saw the news and went ballistic,” Coker said. “We got in touch with them and they said they wanted to meet me in Dalton at 2 a.m. or in Cleveland at 3 a.m.”
Instead, Coker said he headed straight to their business in Cleveland, arriving at 11 p.m. Other dog owners were gathered outside the business, as well.
He said the Kinders' daughter was also there, and attempted delay tactics.
“She was playing games,” Coker said.
When he finally was able to see his dog at 4 a.m., Coker said he was shocked by its condition.
“Louie was dehydrated and had lost tons of weight,” Coker said.
He said the dog's fur was stained from lying in urine. In addition, Coker said the inside of the facility smelled of dog urine and feces.
“You could not breathe normally in there,” Coker said.
Thankfully, Coker said his dog has recovered, although a visit to a veterinarian required treatment for an eye infection, as well as to receive fluids.
Coker said he and his wife will not rest until they Kinders are held accountable.
“We will be pursuing legal action,” Coker said.
On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed in Catoosa County alleging dog abuse and breach of contract.
The plaintiffs, Abby Evans and Justin Evans of Walker County, Georgia, are seeking $4,600 in "actual and projected damages," as well as $1,500 in attorney's fees.
In the suit, the Evanses claim damages in connection to the mistreatment of their dog by Kinder, which led to veterinary bills, grooming bills and costs to re-train their dog, Tank.
The couple is represented by attorney Jeremy F. Jones of Ringgold, Georgia.
Worried about safety
In media reports earlier this week, Kinder said he is innocent of the charges. In addition, he said he is worried about his safety, as well as his wife and employees.
He was charged with four counts of cruelty to animals, once for each time he extended the training, according to the CPD.
A message left on his business voicemail by the Banner was not immediately returned by press time.
The Banner will continue to provide new information as it becomes available.
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