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Vista dog boarding business owner accused of abuse, neglect – CBS News 8

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VISTA, Calif. — DISCLAIMER: Some of the content in this story and video may be disturbing to some. 
A San Diego County judge ordered a woman in Vista to shut down her dog training and boarding business that she runs out of her home after several former clients and employees came forward with accusations of neglect and abuse. The complaint against Lauren Russell claims she changes her business name regularly to trick consumers into hiring her still.
CBS 8 spoke with victims and former employees and today we went to Russell’s house where she runs her business. She would not let CBS 8 inside to check things out, but she did meet at a park in Vista for an interview where she denied ever abusing any dog in her possession.
The complaint filed has myriad allegations against Russell, claiming she runs a fraudulent boarding and training business out of her home without a business or kennel license, and that she houses over 30 dogs in her garage with no temperature regulation during extreme weather.
Russell also fakes online reviews and changes her business name when she gets negative reviews, the complaint reads. Here’s a list of the business names Russell is alleged to have used: 
The complaint claims Russell has been making threats against people who come forward in order to silence them.
Wednesday morning a judge ordered her to return all dogs in her possession to their owners. Russell told CBS 8 there is no proof against her. 
“They are accusing me of mistreating animals,” she said. “Which is something you’ll never see proof of because it doesn’t happen.” 
Russell said she would not agree to an interview at her home because she has received death threats over the matter.
“Having my house on video is not going to make anything better,” she said.
CBS 8 obtained footage from former employees of what they said shows too many dogs crammed in kennels, sitting in the garage, covered in feces and being injured. 
Lexi Siwecki worked for Russell this summer. She also lived at the house. 
“It was 85-90 degrees in the impact kennels,” Sikecki said. “I was very worried for the dogs. On the day that I left there were 33 dogs on property. She had 3 dogs in one kennel at one time.” 
Russell admits the county investigators have been called to her house, she said between 10-20 times. The San Diego County Department of Animal Services said they have written her citations. She said it was because she had as many as 14 dogs before she knew the law permitted that volume.
Siwecki said she’s witnessed the mistreatment first-hand.
“She was really rough with the dogs,” she said. “There was a teenie tiny Frenchie she pulled backwards off a fountain onto his head. It fell on his neck, fell on its head. I’m a dog whisperer and it hurt me very deeply to see the dogs in distress. I’ve seen her kick them. I’ve seen her kick the dogs.”
She and others said dogs were constantly fighting and biting each other, as well as employees. Former clients have posted pictures of their dogs with raw noses, matted skin, and there are stories of downright violence. 
We read Russell a text message from one of her former employees. It reads in part, “I tried to tell Lauren to calm down, you can’t kick dogs in the head like that or they’ll die.” 
Russell responded, “That’ll never be proven to be true. It never happened.”
Bryan Pease is a civil rights attorney in San Diego who has fought numerous animal rights cases. He’s representing several people and a local nonprofit who successfully got the temporary restraining order against Russell.
“Training and boarding is so unregulated,” he said. “Anybody can go out there and say they are training and boarding dogs and there’s very little oversight. Here we have an extreme case of someone is holding herself out to be this expert dog trainer who actually has no qualifications whatsoever. She locks dogs in her garage. She starves them and beats them. The stories are horrific.”
He said he doesn’t understand why San Diego County’s Department of Animal Services hasn’t done more. 
“There are plenty of verified complaints of owners and veterinarian bills,” he said. “This is an issue that was being allowed to continue. It’s mind boggling that she got away with it for as long as she did.”
Russell is due back in court October 13. 
“I never ever would harm a dog and if I heard all these things about somebody else it would be hard for me to believe them, but there’s zero proof.”
WATCH RELATED: Neighbors rally against what they say is animal abuse, neglect in Lomita Village
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