Dog trainer accused of abuse kept in jail

Ex-girlfriend: ‘He is dangerous'

FORT MYERS, Fla. – As police investigate whether a man claiming to be a certified dog trainer abused his customers’ pets, the convicted felon will remain locked up in jail in connection with an unrelated domestic violence case.

[READ: News 6's original investigation into dog trainer ]

Robert Friedler, 37, is accused of violating his probation by sending Facebook messages to his ex-girlfriend just weeks after he was released from state custody in December.  Friedler served two years in prison for battering the woman and abusing a child.

“I think he’s a psychopath,” said Angela Spaulding, the former girlfriend who claims she suffered facial fractures, broken ribs, and a collapsed lung at the hands of Friedler.  “He enjoys hurting other people and animals that can’t fight back.”

After his release from prison, Friedler created a company called Kids K-9 Rescue and Training based in Orlando, records show.  According to his website, Friedler claimed he trained dogs to become service animals for children with special needs.

Several of Friedler’s former customers now believe their dogs may have been abused in his care, a News 6 investigation has revealed.

"My husband and I were just in tears when she was given back to us in her condition," said Sherri Walton, who said she paid Friedler $3000 to train their Doberman Pincher.  “Her feet were so bloody and she had open sores on them. “

Walton, who has a 9-year-old daughter with Down syndrome, said the dog did not behave as if it had undergone service animal training and appeared to be malnourished when it returned home two months later.

“She was so underweight you could see all the bones, all her ribs, her hip bones, everything,” said Walton.

The Orlando Police Department is now investigating Walton’s allegations of fraud and animal abuse, according to an agency spokeswoman.

News 6 has spoken to four other dog owners who also suspect Friedler may have abused their pets while failing to train them.

Friedler’s ex-girlfriend claims she witnessed him abuse and kill her puppy.

“Because it was barking, he decided to start kicking it.  And he just continued to kick it and kick it and kick it and I think he broke its back,” said Spaulding.  “So then he drowned it in the kitchen sink.”

The Fort Myers attorney representing Friedler in his probation violation case, Ryan Doyle, said he was unable to comment on the unrelated dog abuse allegations being investigated by the Orlando Police Department.

Friedler, who uses the alias Ryan Thompson, claimed to be a certified dog trainer, according to the Kids K-9 website.  However, when News 6 checked with several dog training associations listed on the website, none reported having record of Friedler or Thompson.

“He’s never been to any kind of dog training school,” said Friedler’s ex-girlfriend.  “It’s only what he watches on TV.”

When News 6 drove to the Orlando address for the dog training school listed on the Kids K-9 Facebook page, it turned out to be the home of the Lake Brantley Rowing Club, not a canine school.

Photos of Friedler posing with several dogs appear to have been posted on his company’s Facebook page in October 2015, at the same time Friedler was still in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections.

In May 2015, the state assigned the inmate to a work release program.  Friedler was given a job at the Maingate Flea Market, according to a corrections department spokesman.

Two months before Friedler was released from state custody, Walton said she drove her daughter Abby and their Doberman to the Kissimmee flea market to meet with the dog trainer.  Photos posted on the Kids K-9 Facebook page in October show Friedler and Abby smiling as they hug the puppy.

“Inmates are not permitted to conduct or oversee a business while incarcerated,” said Florida Department of Corrections Press Secretary Alberto C. Moscoso, who indicated Friedler has not been formally accused of breaking the rules.

“There haven’t been any reports, allegations or FDC investigations concerning inmate Friedler’s assignment to (the work release program),” he said.

On Wednesday, a Lee County circuit court judge denied Friedler’s request to be released from jail on bond while he fights his probation violation charge.

Friedler told the judge he did not send Facebook messages to his ex-girlfriend in violation of a court order prohibiting contact with the domestic violence victim.

If a judge revokes Friedler’s probation, he could be sent back to state prison until late 2018, records show.

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