SPOKANE, Washington – In a KHQ exclusive, the Spokane County Attorney’s Office and SCRAPS are investigating a possible animal neglect case outside of Spokane County.
Houser’s Quality Labs, run by a man named Greg Houser, was notified by authorities last August when three dogs died in his care.
Each year, thousands of dogs compete in hunt trials at hundreds of clubs across the country. Families invest thousands of dollars in a quality trainer that the dog will live with for months.
Larry Leidelmeyer and Jerry Vallortigara first heard about Greg Houser a few years ago.
“In fact, it was recommended to me through a guide I went out with,” Vallortigara said.
Ben and Evelyn Schallberger found Houser through Facebook.
“He seemed, you know, very knowledgeable just from his videos,” Ben said.
After all, Houser is part of an exclusive Association of Professional Retriever Trainers.
“You have to be voted in a trial to be a member of the PRTA, and I know that there are many professionals, myself included, who would like nothing more than to be recognized by the PRTA,” said a trainer who wanted to remain anonymous. he said he. “Greg is recognized by the PRTA, he has accomplishments with his dogs. He’s a former law enforcement officer. So all of those things stand out. Those are really cool things.”
“For the price and what they recommended me to do and what I was looking to do with my dogs, it seemed like a great fit. I didn’t suspect anything wrong,” Leidelmeyer said.
All three families hoped that Houser would train their dogs to be champions. At first, it seemed like a success.
“He was working, my goal was to bring him to his teachers,” Vallortigara said.
“So yeah, it was moving,” Ben said.
That is until last summer. Houser was based in Dos Palos, California and told his clients that he moves to colder climates in the summer to continue training the dogs and returns in the winter.
All three clients we spoke with said Houser had a facility on Medical Lake Rd in Spokane and told them last summer that’s where he was headed.
About 30 dogs, including Leidelmeyer’s dog Andy, Vallortigara’s dog Smoke, and Ben and Evelyn’s dog Drake, set out on the journey north. But that’s when the red flags began to appear.
“Communications started to get a little more difficult,” Vallortigara said.
“Things weren’t working out right. Things were getting really weird,” Leidelmeyer said.
On August 11, things got even more concerning with heat warnings across the region. But not a word from Houser.
“I asked him how he was doing. And he said, well, we’re working on doubles and running two stacks. So that’s fine, great to hear that. That was August 11 at 7:34 p.m. The next day, I got a phone call at 7 a.m. from him saying, ‘Hey, Drake’s not okay,'” Ben said.
Drake was sick and so was Leidelmeyer’s dog, Andy.
“I got a phone call from him in the morning saying, ‘Hey, my dog has been sick and I’m thinking about taking him to the vet,'” Leidelmeyer said.
It turns out that Andy had been sick for days, but Larry says they never told him. Houser then told Larry that he thought the dog would get better. he did not do it
Drake died on the way to West Plains Medical Center and Andy wasn’t much better.
“They told me he would have a 20% chance of making it through the night. And luckily, he did,” Leidelmeyer said.
Leidelmeyer was able to drive by and see Andy in his last moment.
“He comforted him a little bit, brought him some of his favorite toys and made some noises that make him quite hyper and active,” he said. “I got a phone call from WSU saying Andy was in cardiac arrest. I came back to WSU and they were doing CPR on him when I got there.”
Ben and Evelyn weren’t so lucky.
“We didn’t get to see Drake. The last time I saw him was when I left him,” Ben said.
And Vallortigara’s dog, Smoke?
“The vet gave him fluids. He was dehydrated. He was underweight,” Vallortigara said. “We went there and picked him up. When he got home he was very skittish. He had scars on his stomach and elbows. His fingernails were split, actually, down to the pads.”
Its alive. But not the same.
“Now he’s afraid of the wind. So it’s very scary,” Vallortigara said. “I mean, he was the quietest dog ever. He never barked or anything, now he just runs and walks and barks. And there’s PTSD or anxiety or something because he’s not the same dog.”
But how did it get this far? How did these dogs go from perfectly healthy to injured or dead?
“First I think it was the water, something was wrong with the water from the well,” Vallortigara said.
“Then he said it was Purina dog food,” Leidelmeyer said.
“Then he blamed poisonous plants on the property,” Ben said.
“Anything he gave for plausible or impossible problems was ruled out by the toxicology reports,” Leidelmeyer said.
We got copies of Andy and Drake’s necropsy that showed high sodium levels. KHQ spoke to his vet, who said it caused their brains to swell and then they died.
She told KHQ in a statement: “Something wasn’t right for him to be in this situation. You don’t see dogs that just drop dead from the heat.”
Only extreme conditions like being on a property without proper airflow, food, and water would have caused this to happen.
“He said it was probably the five worst neglect cases he’d ever seen. They just smelled horrible. He said it was disgusting,” Ben said.
So what’s next for Greg Houser? We talked to him on the phone and exchanged text messages. He refused to be recorded but said in a statement: “The dogs were fed and watered daily as part of the normal routine. This is a tragedy and it devastated me. I have never had a dog die and suddenly in 24 hours I had 3. There is no way I was intentionally or unintentionally hurting one of these dogs.”
Houser said he still accepts dogs and is still listed on the PRTA’s website.
An independent contractor for the American Kennel Club who did not want to be identified told KHQ that they will not act without a conviction. That same person said that the individual clubs do not let him participate in competitions.
And the three affected families?
“We want to see him lose his ability to own and train dogs forever. We want you to lose your license. We want him to lose his accreditation,” Leidelmeyer said. “I definitely want justice for my dog, for Andy, for Drake. And for Rosie. I mean, those three dogs didn’t have to die the way they did.”
KHQ spoke with another trainer who worked with Greg on a daily basis last summer. He said that SCRAPS has been on the property several times since then and that they have been cleaned of any negligence.
We contacted the Office of the Prosecutor and SCRAPS, who confirmed the investigation, but were unable to comment as it is an open investigation.
According to the coach who wanted to remain anonymous, there is no qualification or education you need to become a coach. The only thing that classifies you as a professional trainer is accepting money for services.