Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Sarge's Law' could bring new rules for dog trainers in Hillsborough, entire state

Spurred by the death of Sarge, her Shih Tzu-Pekingese mix puppy, after training in 2015, Lorie Childers of Land O’Lakes is gaining support for her “Sarge’s Law” proposal, which would regulate the dog training industry.

Courtesy of Lorie Childers

Spurred by the death of Sarge, her Shih Tzu-Pekingese mix puppy, after training in 2015, Lorie Childers of Land O’Lakes is gaining support for her “Sarge’s Law” proposal, which would regulate the dog training industry.

TAMPA — She was just inside the doorway of a veterinary hospital when Lorie Childers felt Sarge's heartbeat fade as he took his last breaths.

Only minutes earlier, Sarge was a happy, healthy Shih Tzu-Pekingese mix puppy that jumped up and down as she picked him up from doggy day care.

But at day care, she and Sarge took part in lessons to teach Sarge to heel. To quell the dog's excitement, a trainer clamped his hand over the dog's mouth while grabbing the 8-pound puppy's neck with his other hand.

"His eyes glazed over and his tongue was sticking out and turned stiff and white," said Childers, 52, of Land O'Lakes. "I believe he died in my arms."

Nearly two years after Sarge's death in May 2015, Childers is pushing for new oversight of the dog training industry at the local and state levels.

At Childers' urging, Hills­borough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham last month requested that county staffers research how Hillsborough can regulate dog trainers, night groomers and boarders. A proposal is expected sometime in April, and a new ordinance could be approved in May.

Higginbotham, a Republican, is wary of adding regulations to private businesses but said he was surprised at how little oversight there is, not only in Hillsborough but in the entire country.

"I've learned through process of research when this came to my attention that there are no minimum standards or proper oversight for dog trainers," he said.

Still, Higginbotham said he was unsure if the county should create a new license for trainers and rules for operation or a system to punish bad trainers.

"It's really starting from scratch and finding what language can work on the cruelty side," Childers said. "We have to start somewhere."

Childers declined to name the trainer or the facility he worked at. Complaints to Hillsborough County's Pet Resource Center about dog trainers are rare. There were just three complaints since 2014, according to county records.

Childers has hired a team of lobbyists in Tallahassee to promote "Sarge's Law" at the state level, as well.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, plans to file legislation that would make someone liable if they are grossly negligent with the care of a domesticated animal. Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, has expressed interest in a legislative approach, as well, Childers said.

As it is, animals are treated as property by the state and even an act that leads to death can cost someone only the value of the pet, Moskowitz said.

His bill would affect not only dog trainers but anyone who cares for a domesticated animal. They would be liable for punitive damages for pain and suffering if it can be proved the caretaker demonstrated a conscious disregard for the life of the animal.

"It's not just the money," Moskowitz said. "It's a deterrent. If something else was recoverable, they might treat these loved ones with more care."

Moskowitz has pushed for similar legislation in the past, but he's optimistic that Sarge's story coupled with Childers' financial backing can get it through Tallahassee.

"Having high-powered lobbyists doesn't hurt," he said. "I'll take the ammunition."

Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.

'Sarge's Law' could bring new rules for dog trainers in Hillsborough, entire state 02/28/17 [Last modified: Friday, March 3, 2017 10:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with critical series at Yankees up first

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]