British Columbia

Vancouver dog trainer loses pets after video shows him punching a dog

Glen Zeller had his four dogs seized by the SPCA after video showed him lifting a dog by its head, slamming it into the ground and then punching it repeatedly.

Glen Zeller's 4 dogs were seized by the SPCA after he was caught on video slamming and punching a dog

Glen Zeller seen in a photo taken from the Dogtalk website. Zeller has lost an appeal to get his four pet dogs back after they were seized by the SPCA. (DogTalk)

A Vancouver dog trainer has lost an appeal against the B.C. SPCA to get his four pet dogs back.

Glen Affenzeller, also known as Glen Zeller, is the owner and operator of Dogtalk Ventures Ltd., which advertises "transform[ing] your dog into a balanced and well-behaved canine citizen."

In August, ​​​Zeller's own dogs — Hazel, Carebear, Duphous and Mieka — were seized after the B.C. SPCA received a complaint about abusive behaviour.

According to the appeal documents, video from August 1 shows an incident "where [Zeller] picked up a dog by the head, slammed it onto the concrete and punched it closed fisted multiple times." 

"It was abusive training techniques," said Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer with the B.C. SPCA.

"We're not just talking about a different school of thought in training. What was depicted in the video absolutely crossed that line." 

Moriarty says the video led to an investigation, which resulted in the seizure of Zeller's four dogs, which were suffering from numerous medical conditions.

"The environment at the time the animals were removed was inadequate in the sense that it was very unsanitary. Feces, ammonia, a lack of care in general for the dogs," said Moriarty.

According to SPCA records, Zeller was the subject of 42 separate complaints from 2006 to 2019.

Moriarty says the B.C. SPCA will recommend charges against Zeller. If he is found guilty, his sentence could include a lifetime ban on owning or caring for animals.

Marcie Moriarty of the B.C. SPCA says the video of Zeller showed 'abusive training techniques.' (Christian Amundson/CBC News)

'A gift' for dogs

During the appeal, Zeller testified that he has "a gift" when it comes to dogs but no formal training or qualifications. He said his techniques included tethering dogs together during walks, including his four, to make the group into a pack so the dogs could teach each other. 

On August 1, he was walking six dogs tethered together in groups of two when they came upon two dogs barking aggressively from behind a fence. One of his client dogs, Dawson, barked back, and continued barking despite being told to stop. Dawson then bit Carebear's ear.

That's when Zeller slammed and punched Dawson, in what Zeller claims was an emergency response.

Zeller testified that "when dogs act aggressively, they are doing his job — he teaches dogs to respect [their] masters first."

Dr. Ian Welch, a veterinarian brought in by the SPCA, testified that Dawson likely suffered blunt force trauma from the incident. He said Zeller's behaviour in the video was abusive.

Another veterinarian, Dr. Karen Harvey, examined Zeller's dogs two days after the incident and found their condition to be of concern. 

'Neglect and untreated conditions'

"I have no doubts that the animals ... have been experiencing chronic ongoing pain and discomfort in addition to blatant neglect and untreated medical conditions," she said. 

An animal behaviour and welfare scientist who was present when the dogs were seized reported inadequate care and conditions at the home, including a urine-soaked dog bed, soiled dog crates and a dirty yard with multiple piles of feces in various states of decomposition.

During the hearing, Zeller acted as his own counsel and called 11 witnesses who vouched for his abilities.

However, the adjudicating panel from the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board decided Zeller should not get his dogs back because he had failed to acknowledge the SPCA's concerns.

The panel also found that based on the video, evidence from the hearing, and Zeller's complaint history, "without a significant adjustment to his training techniques, similar incidents are likely to reoccur."

Zeller was ordered to pay the SPCA $7,401.86 in costs associated with the care of his four dogs.

The exception rather than the norm

For others in the industry, like dog-walker Barry Reuger, the news was hard to hear.

"It makes me angry, to be honest," said Reuger, who often saw Zeller while walking the North Shore trails.

Barry Reuger says it's time for B.C. to look at provincial regulations for the dog-walking industry. (Christian Amundson/CBC News)

He believes it's time to create provincial regulation around dog walking to provide the industry with oversight and to give owners some peace of mind.

"Nobody should think he is an example of what dog walkers do because he really isn't. We're here to have a good time and make happy dogs," Reuger said.

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