Friday, May 24

2nd dog death being investigated at Palm City dog training facility

The Martin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a dog training facility in Palm City after deputies say a second dog died in the trainer’s care.

Turner Benoit said his mother, Nellie Benoit, paid Pawsitively Paradise to train her golden doodle, Flurry, for a week while she was getting knee surgery.

On Saturday, Benoit said he received a call from the owner of the facility, who told him the dog was unresponsive.

“I was like, ‘Hold on, so youre telling me the dogs dead?’ and she was like ‘Yeah, I think she is.’ I couldn’t believe it,” said Benoit.

Benoit said the dog was young and healthy with no prior conditions before putting her in the dog trainer’s care.

“There was nothing wrong with her, she was running around like crazy. I don’t know what happened,” Benoit said.

Benoit said he didn’t suspect any fault until he saw a news article about a similar situation happening at the facility a little over a year ago.

“Someone sent me the news article about what happened in the past,” Benoit said.

“What was your reaction when you saw that article?” WPTV reporter Kate Hussey asked.

“Anger,” Benoit said.

In November 2022, WPTV reported on a previous investigation the heriff’s office launched into Pawsitively Paradise, prompted when a couple, Dan and Adelle Csontos, filed a report against the facility, telling deputies one of their flat-coated retrievers died while in the company’s care.

The Csontos told WPTV they left their dogs, Mako and Marlin, with Pawsitively Paradise for two days over Thanksgiving but said they came back to Mako lying unresponsive with yellow fluid coming from his mouth.

Mako later died at the emergency vet, and the couple said Marlin was treated for severe dehydration and a bacterial infection in his paws.

“There’s no explanation for that healthy dog to have died,” Adelle Csontos said at the time.

“Weve been out to the house twice now, both times because dogs died under the care of the operator,” Sheriff William Snyder said.

The necropsy performed on Mako was inconclusive. The report said the dog’s death was due to aspiration of gastrointestinal contents. In other words, he likely choked on his vomit.

The trigger for the vomiting, however, was unclear in the report, so criminal charges were never filed.

In Fluffy’s case, the vet’s report was just as inconclusive.

“The vet did an examination, inside and out, and cannot determine a cause of death. So we don’t know and were probably never going to determine cause of death,” Snyder said.

Last year, Snyder said deputies cited the owner eight times for improper care of animals. Chief Deputy John Budensiek said at the time one of the citations included animals being kept in crates without water.

Deputies said the owner’s license, while active in 2023, was never renewed in 2024.

“Even though we don’t have criminal charges, theres a very bright red flag here,” Snyder said.

WPTV went to Pawsitively Paradise and spoke to the owner, Nikki Camerlengo.

“I understand they lost their pet and I get it, thats horrible. I wouldn’t wish that on no one, but as a business owner I don’t feel like I need to be taken down,” Camerlengo said.

Camerlengo told Hussey she didn’t do anything wrong nor treat the animals poorly, and said both dogs that died had prior conditions before coming in, telling WPTV Mako had pneumonia and Flurry had an oxygen issue.

Mako’s necropsy said tests for viral and bacterial pnemonia came back negative.

Benoit said Flurry’s only issue with oxygen was having kennel cough several months prior, and deputies said the doodle’s vet said the dog was perfectly healthy.

“I’m sorry that theres been some issues, but that comes with any job everywhere you go,” Camerlengo said. “It just so happens that mine has to do with dogs. If it was a person with a day care it would be the same thing.”

“So youre planning on continuing to train dogs after this?” Hussey asked.

“Shes allowed to train dogs,” replied Camerlengo’s mother, Vicki Camerlengo.

“This is what I do,” Nikki Camerleng said. “I’m a master dog trainer, I’m nationally certified.”

“Clearly two very healthy dogs died under the operator and I don’t think she should be in the business of taking care of animals,” Snyder counter.

Camerlengo is not facing criminal charges though Snyder said the investigation is onging.

Snyder said he has also referred this case to code enforcement since he said she was operating without a license.

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