NAPA (CBS13) – Two Northern California dog trainers are facing multiple felony animal cruelty charges following the death of a beloved German Shepherd.

The tale of Gunnar, a happy and healthy young German Shepherd, would come to a dark end before his fourth birthday.

“I was so excited,” Denise Swank said.

Denise and Jeff Swank enrolled Gunnar in a $6,000, multi-week training course with NorCal K9 in Contra Costa County back in May to make him the perfect pup.

“Some people go back to school to further their education, we were just furthering his training,” Denise said.

Instead, it would be the worst possible outcome.

“To send your baby off to school and then you get them in the mail, it’s hard,” Denise said.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think of Gunnar,” Jeff said.

A necropsy shows Gunnar had an increased body temperature.

“It’s brought up a lot of anger,” Jeff said. “You know, we don’t know what happened it’s all hearsay until it all comes out, we might not never find out.”

But new clues are painting a picture of what may have taken place.

According to court documents filed by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, dog trainers Garry Reynolds and Devon Ashby of NorCal K9 “did subject this animal to needless suffering, and did inflict unnecessary cruelty upon this animal.”

Seven other dogs found in their care are listed in the complaint.

The Napa Valley German Shepherd Rescue heard Gunnar’s story and got involved.

“Very concerned for the community and for the dogs,” said Larry Parks from the rescue group. “I think there was an opportunity that somebody took advantage of,” said Larry Parks from the rescue.

But trainer Garry Reynolds told CBS13 that’s just not true.

“If in any way I thought I was responsible, why would I do everything that I did?” Reynolds said in a phone interview. “I put the dog on ice so that they could do a full whole post mortem.”

While both trainers were arrested, they have since bailed out of jail and Garry is still training other dogs – a concern for Gunnar’s parents.

“I’m speaking tonight in hopes that we can be his voice, he didn’t have one,” Denise said. “I often think of, what was he thinking? When he went to training. Where’s my family? Why am I here?”

According to NorCal K9’s website, the training company began in 2006 and is based out of woodland, and Oakley-Brentwood.

Gunnar’s owners are pursuing civil charges against the two trainers.

Comments (2)
  1. Cindy Ludwig says:

    This is why dog trainers need to be licensed!

    1. Anne Blohm says:

      Yes. There is no excuse for a family to be left wondering why their dog died.

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