TAMPA (FOX 13) - Video secretly recorded and posted online by PETA from inside a north Tampa dog kennel has sparked an animal cruelty investigation with Hillsborough County Animal Control.
On Wednesday, PETA released video on Youtube inside Inghram's Sit 'N Stay Dog Academy, 10401 Wilsky Blvd. PETA says the video appears to shows employees abusing dogs by constraining their mouths with leashes, and keeping them in outdoor crates for hours without water.
Sit 'N Stay's owner, Clarke Inghram said the video has led to online threats against him and his business.
"They want to kill me, hang me, burn my place down, put me out of business and they don't know the facts," said Inghram.
Inghram said he has trained dogs for nearly 50 years, specializing in aggressive dogs. He said the highly edited video, shot over the summer, does not show the actions that led up to each incident, such as employees comforting a dog prior to using a leash as an emergency muzzle to keep him from biting during a bath.
"It's a quick way to muzzle a dog, especially if a dog is afraid of a muzzle. If you present a dog and try to muzzle him, some dogs become more aggressive," said Inghram. "It doesn't hurt them, it doesn't cut their wind off. It only keeps their mouth shut and prevents them from putting their teeth on you. It's a calming practice that even veterinarians use," said Inghram.
PETA officials said the video speaks for itself.
"There is never an excuse to handle dogs the way that we saw them handling dogs," said Colin Henstock, an investigation specialist with PETA. "It is shocking. We hope that the owners will see that the dogs were manhandled, they were crated without water, they were given prescription medication without the guardian's consent."
Henstock said a woman who got a job at Sit 'N Stay as a dog washer over the summer recorded and provided the video to PETA after a former customer of the kennel contacted the organization.
"Our investigation was prompted by a tip from a distraught former customer, who has request that we do not reveal what they and their dog endured," Henstock.
The tip led PETA officials to look into Inghram's nearly 600-page file with Hillsborough County Animal Control. Records, dating back to 2002, show Inghram was cited several times for improper confinement. Most of the charges were dropped.
In 2004, a dog died while at the academy. The owner claimed it was from a heat stroke.
"We've proved that the dog had a liver condition, and we've moved on from that," said Inghram.
In 2008, another former client claimed he witnessed Inghram "helicopter" his dog, swinging the dog in the air by its leash. Inghram said it was in self defense.
"His dog was aggressive and went after a pregnant woman. I got him away from that woman and swung him around to make him dizzy, so he wouldn't attack me anymore," said Inghram.
According to animal control officials, an investigation into PETA's recent video is underway. Inghram said, while he feels like his business has been unfairly targeted for years, his returning clients are a testament to his success with training dogs and his ability to do it humanely.
"I didn't like [the video], I'll be honest. It wasn't something I cared for," said Eileen Melton, whose German Shepard mix, Trixie, was featured in PETA's video sitting in a cage, allegedly without water.
"I've also seen the aggressive dogs here. They tend to take dogs in here that a lot of people don't want. Dogs that would be euthanized, and I think you have to protect yourself," said Melton, who plans to continue coming to Inghram's to board and train her dog.
PETA representatives hope any owner who recognizes their dog in the video will contact them. The organization is also encouraging dog owners to use caution when boarding their dog, and recommend bringing the boarder to your house for a stay.