CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – New complaints are rolling in against dog trainer Amelia Ferreira and the dog training company which formerly contracted her.
Ferreira was arraigned Monday on an obstruction charge after police and the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA) said she concealed the dead body of Knox, a 5-year-old bull dog belonging to former Patriots player Jerod Mayo.
Officials at RISPCA said Ferreira led them to the dog’s decomposing body over the weekend, after initially fabricating a story about losing the dog in Wrentham. A necropsy is being performed to determine how the dog died.
Now, multiple other dog owners who say their pets were trained by Ferreira are coming forward to complain about their own experiences with her. Three dog owners who spoke with Eyewitness News told similar stories of their pets being kept in Ferreira’s care for longer than expected, returning home with behavioral problems or health issues that they claim did not exist beforehand.
All three customers and Mayo said they were introduced to Ferreira through Off Leash K9 Dog Training, a nationwide company with franchises in multiple cities and states, including Rhode Island. All four said the trainer boarded the dogs at her home for weeks while working with them.
Jill Shappy said she contacted Off Leash about her 10-month-old dog, Tyson, back in 2017. Shappy says they connected her with Ferreira and they met in a Park in Providence. Shappy said Tyson was a happy, loving dog who would often jump on people. She was hopeful Ferreira’s training would fix his jumping problem.
When Shappy got Tyson back weeks later, she said the dog had developed skin problems. Shappy said the trainers, Ferreira and another woman, told her Tyson had developed allergies. Shappy said the dog also began exhibiting unwanted behaviors.
“He came back a standoffish and vicious to other animals,” Shappy said. “He never was the same.”
Shappy said she complained to the head of Providence’s Off Leash franchise. Shappy said she eventually turned the dog into a local shelter because she couldn’t control him and was afraid he would attack another animal.
“It was awful,” she said, adding that more than a year later she remains devastated by the turn of events.
Shappy has filed a formal complaint with the RISPCA, as has Michael Lombardi, who says he sent his dog to Ferreira in March.
In his complaint, Lombardi said he too was connected with Ferreira through Off Leash K9 Training. In his complaint he wrote, “we were not allowed to visit or see where our dog was located. We were not allowed to obtain the address of the trainer.”
When Zoey was returned to Lombardi’s care weeks later his complaint says, “she was covered in a bad rash that was leaking green puss. She had lost around 8 pounds and much of her fur on her butt was missing exposing pink skin. She was suffering from a urinary tract infection. Her neck was severely wounded with massive welts and holes.”
According to their website, Off Leash K9 Training uses e-collars, which produce what they call “a subtle electrical current,” to train clients’ dogs.
Lombardi said they were never notified that their dog was sick while she was under Ferreira’s care; he said when they contacted Ferreira with their complaints and concerns, she never responded. Lombardi said he paid $2,600 for the training.
On Monday, the RISPCA revealed Ferreira had been concealing the body of Knox at her home for weeks.
According to a police report, she told investigators she found the dog dead inside its crate and put it in a trash bag in her backyard the next day. Weeks later, the police report says she brought the bag containing the dog’s decomposing body back into her home.
In July, Ferreira’s husband, Darrel, was arrested on domestic assault charges and had five of his personal dogs seized from the basement apartment of Ferreira’s Cranston home. The RISPCA said the dogs were living in squalid conditions; he was later charged with animal cruelty.
At the time, Eyewitness News contacted Off Leash K9 Training via email, asking about Ferreira and her involvement with Mayo’s missing dog.
The company responded with an unattributed statement:
“We are continuing to cooperate with local police as their investigation continues and are grateful for the police’s diligent efforts in pursuing this matter. Knox was not enrolled in our training program when he went missing. His training program ended in April and his family subsequently entered into a separate agreement with our former independent contractor, without our knowledge or permission in violation of our policies and standards. It is our greatest hope that Knox can be reunited with his family and we thank the community for their assistance in trying to locate Knox.”
The Mayo’s dispute the company’s claims that they entered into a separate agreement with Ferreira.
On Tuesday, Eyewitness News attempted to reach Off Leash K9 Training and several of its trainers — including Ferreira — through social media, email and via multiple telephone calls. No emails or messages were returned as of this publication, and links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for the Providence branch of Off Leash K9 Training were not working as of Tuesday.
According to the RISPCA, state law requires any animal boarding facility to be licensed, but they say there is a loophole that doesn’t require the same licensing for facilities that train dogs while they’re being boarded.
In a statement, RI Dept. of Environmental Management spokesman Michael Healey said, “Whether deliberate abuse or simply failing to take care of an animal, animal cruelty cannot be tolerated. This unfortunate case has brought this loophole to our attention and DEM will be researching how best to address it before the next session of the Rhode Island General Assembly.”