Saturday, June 22

Third person says pet died at Palm City dog training facility amid ongoing investigation

A third person tells WPTV her pet died at a dog training facility in Palm City amid an ongoing investigation by the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

Chalimar Gregory told WPTV she placed her 4-month-old Rottweiler, named Red, in the care of Pawsitively Paradise for about a week in 2018 for training when she got a call from the owner, Nikki Camerlengo.

“She called me and asked me to meet her because Red’s back legs weren’t working and he couldn’t stand up,” Gregory said. “Poor Red was in the back of her car just lethargic.”

Gregory said Camerlengo told her the dog had gotten parvo, a deadly virus that affects dogs from a rabbit or a squirrel. Because Red hadn’t yet had her last parvo booster, Gregory had no reason to believe otherwise until she said her veterinarian raised some concerns.

“She said that she didn’t get a good feeling,” Gregory said.

WPTV took Red’s veterinarian records to a certified, online veterinarian, who said Red’s symptoms weren’t consistent with the parvovirus. Gregory said her veterinarian had an entirely different diagnosis.

“She had a bruised trachea, and they think her spinal cord was severed. It wasn’t a rabbit. It wasn’t a squirrel,” Gregory said. “We did have to put Red down. It’s devastating.”

Gregory is the third person WPTV spoke to who said their dog died in the care of Pawsitively Paradise, a dog training facility in Palm City.

A Palm City couple filed a report in November 2022 against the facility when they said their flat-coated retriever, named Mako, died after being at the facility for two days, prompting deputies to investigate the facility and its owner, Nikki Camerlengo.

A Jupiter Farms man filed a report March 2 after he said his mother’s golden doodle died while in the care of Camerlengo after about a week, prompting a second investigation.

Gregory spoke to WPTV reporter Kate Hussey following the launch of the second investigation.

“I had no idea,” Gregory said. “I think I was angry. I think about Red and how their deaths could have been prevented.”

WPTV called Camerlengo to get her side of the story. She told Hussey the allegations weren’t true but wouldn’t answer any questions as to why and hung up the phone.

She told WPTV Wednesday she takes great care of the animals entrusted to her.

“They painted it to seem like I run a torture camp and that’s not accurate at all,” Camerlengo said. “I mean these dogs are my life.”

Camerlengo received eight citations in 2022 for improper care of animals, and according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, one of those citations included keeping animals in crates without sufficient water.

However, as of 2023, Camerlengo still had a business license.

WPTV reached out to code enforcement departments in multiple cities and counties to figure out why.

Even though the incident didn’t happen within its jurisdiction, St. Lucie County Code Enforcement told us there is no limit to how many citations a business can get. Code staff doesn’t have the authority to shut a business down.

In addition, Ken Granacki, who has trained dogs for 30 years, said while most dog trainers do go through an apprenticeship or receive training, said there is no national or state certification required to train dogs, only a business license.

“It’s not a real regulated industry,” Granacki said.

According to Martin County Code Enforcement Ordinances, the county attorney can help seek an injunction to prevent a business owner from possessing animals, but no one from the county was able to answer WPTV’s question Friday as to why that injunction wasn’t sought against the company after the first investigation, nor what needs to happen for an injunction to be sought.

“What do you hope happens out of this?” Hussey asked Gregory.

“I think the awareness that people really need to do their homework, and I’m one of those people that thought I did,” Gregory said. “I hope this kennel, or whatever she calls it, is shut down.

Camerlengo’s business license is not active as of 2024. She told Hussey she plans to continue training dogs elsewhere.

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