US

Dog Trainer Facing Animal Cruelty Charges Kills Himself: Police

By Zack Stieber

A dog trainer who was recently charged with animal cruelty was found dead by suicide in Tennessee.

Stephen Kinder died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the Cleveland Police Department confirmed.

Kinder was recently arrested after an investigation concluded he abused dozens of animals, leaving them malnourished and “living in horrible conditions” at his business, Kinder Dog Training, in Cleveland, and at his home in Whitfield County, Georgia.

The initial arrest came after a woman told police her dog was seen vomiting and lost a significant amount of weight after spending time at the Tennessee business.

Abigail Eastburn said she took her English Great Dane to the center and he was 30 pounds lighter when she picked him up several weeks later. He also had a slew of health problems.

“I was heartbroken,” Eastburn told WSB-TV. “He had diarrhea, vomiting, was lethargic. He couldn’t walk. He was falling asleep standing up, and was kind of tumbling over.”

The bulk of the animals were found at his house, including 16 dogs.

“They were all 10 to 15 pounds underweight. They all had muscle mass loss and dried feces upon them,” said Diane Franklin, the director of the Whitfield County Animal Shelter.

Also found were two baby goats, two turtles, a snake, and nine ducks, along with several dead animals, the Dalton Police Department said.

After the discovery of the animals, volunteers and veterinarians worked into the night on Thursday to care for them.

Belgian Malinois, German shepherd and Dogo Argentino were among the breeds of the dogs, reported Fox 5. Dalton Police Department officers said they weren’t sure what Kinder was doing with those breeds as they are often used by law enforcement.

Nonprofit Canine Pet Rescue and Happy Tails Veterinary Care in Bethlehem were among the groups and businesses working together to give the dogs health examinations and vaccinations.

Besides the animal cruelty charges, Kinder also faced a lawsuit filed by a couple in Georgia saying his business didn’t provide the training it promised, that the business abused their animal, and that they had to take their dog, Tank, to the vet and retrain him due to Kinder’s negligence.

Additionally, the couple’s lawyer said that Kinder promised to refund the couple’s money and pay for vet bills but ultimately did not do so.

The suit asked for $6,000.

‘Never Expected This’

The suicide was unexpected and Eastburn, whose complaint helped kick off the investigation, said she did not want Kinder to die.

“I never expected this to happen,” she told WDEF. “I never wanted this to happen. The whole point of this was to get justice for my dog.”

She said she didn’t regret what she did. “I don’t feel guilty for sharing my story. We helped a lot of people,” Eastburn said.

“I know that there was a lot going on because he told me that himself when I spoke to him, that he was receiving a lot of death threats and that he was going through a lot of shaming on social media,” Cleveland Police spokeswoman Evie West said.

“So I don’t know what was going through his mind. I don’t know if it was just this specific incident, I don’t know if it was what was being said, or if it was a collective something that just made him think that this was not worth it,” she said.