After a Massachusetts family said their beloved French bulldog died in the care of a dog trainer they hired online, a 27-year-old woman from Haddam, Connecticut, was charged with “fraud,” police said.
The family of purebred Frenchman, 3-year-old Charlie, said they have continued to receive photos and updates from training sessions, and police believe the dog died days after the dog’s death, said Bart Hanson of North Reading, Massachusetts. to local media.
“He really was the sweetest dog in the world,” Hanson told Boston station WBTS.
North Reading Police Department [NRPD] has received a criminal summons charging dog trainer Josephine Marie Ragland with theft of over $1,200 by false pretenses and obstructing or misleading a police officer, NRPD Chief Mark Zimmerman said in an online statement Tuesday.
Newsweek emailed the NRPD and Charlie’s family for comment on Wednesday.
Zimmerman said the “dog training scam” investigation into the Connecticut trainer began on Sept. 16, when the Hanson family reported that their dog had not been returned after a two-week training session, according to a police report shared with Boston station WFXT is present.
“The dog died on or about September 4th and Ragland sent the owner photos of what was allegedly training after that date,” NRPD investigators said in the report.
Hanson told local media that Charlie’s body was found “dumped on the side of the road.”
The University of Connecticut performed an autopsy on Charlie’s remains and found that the dog was emaciated when he died.
According to Hanson, when Charlie began exhibiting worrisome behavior around their toddler, they decided to find a trainer and used the app Thumbtack. The family paid $1,500 for the session and discovered that Ragland had been operating under the name “Lily” when they found her, Hanson said.
Ragland was also under investigation in California over the disappearance of a German Shepherd she was supposed to train named Scott. Scott’s owners claim Ragland brought them another dog instead of their beloved pet and that the trainer “stole” their purebred German Shepherd, a local provider reports Palo Alto Online Reports. Ragland was not charged in the investigation.
Scott’s owners said Ragland also advertised dog training services online through Thumbtack and said she was “verified.”
A spokesperson from Thumbtack, a home services website and app This allows users to search, evaluate and hire professionals for various services Newsweek announced via email on Tuesday that the company was “actively investigating” the incident.
“We take the integrity of our platform seriously and will continue to take action in the best interests of our community,” the statement said.
The investigation into Charlie’s death led to the discovery of four other dogs in Ragland’s home, all of which had lost “significant weight.” Those dogs were safely returned to their owners in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, NRPD said.
According to NRPD, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is assisting police with the ongoing investigation.
Ragland’s case will be heard before a district judge “at a later date,” the NRPD said.