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Pleasant Hill police chief calls for tougher animal-abuse laws after viral 'dog-training' video

Bad Cass County Pleasant Hill dog trainer Matt Fiala
Posted at 5:51 PM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 19:55:01-05

PLEASANT HILL, Mo. — The Pleasant Hill police chief is calling for tougher animal abuse laws in Missouri after a video went viral showing a dog trainer mistreating a German shepherd.

The trainer seen in the video, Matt Fiala, now faces three municipal charges and neighbors are pushing for him to face state charges.

In the two-minute video, Fiala can be seen putting the dog in a crate. He then picks up a green bucket of what appears to be water and repeatedly throws it at the confined dog.

At one point, he flips the crate on its end and kicks the crate door, hitting the dog.

“It was disgusting," a neighbor who didn’t want to be identified said. What went through my mind is if he can do this to animals, what can he do to humans or other things?"

The neighbor the KSHB 41 I-Team spoke with did not want to show her face out of fear for her safety. She said everyone in the neighborhood is on edge.

“We want to see him move or at the very least, the dogs taken away from him,” the neighbor said.

The person who took the now widely circulated video also is afraid of retaliation, but they gave the I-Team permission to use it. They told us they took the video so police would have proof of the Fiala's abuse.

“It’s just sickening; i made me sick,” Pleasant Hill Police Chief Tommy Wright said.

Wright has a German shepherd. He said the police department has received hundreds of calls about the video.

“Had it not been for the courage of some people coming forward, we wouldn’t have been where we’re at with this case," Wright said. "We need people to stand up and protect our animals."

Wright confirmed police received an anonymous report about a similar incident in November.

Fiala now faces three municipal charges, including animal cruelty.

“I see no viable reason, no viable training reason, for what happened in that video,” Wright said.

The I-Team reached out to Fiala by phone, text and email but never heard back.

When we were in the neighborhood, we saw two cars in the driveway at Fiala's residence, including a truck with dog crates in the back.

“At the end of the day, unfortunately, what we see in that video at the state level is a misdemeanor,” Wright said.

He and neighbors would like to see Fiala face state charges, but animal abuse is a misdemeanor under Missouri law. It elevates to a felony if an animal is tortured while they're alive.

“I think the punishment at the state level, I think it needs to be reclassified to a felony," Wright said. "I think that there needs to be some safeguards to where, if you’re convicted, you are not allowed to have animals anymore."

He also would like to see a state law regulating dog trainers. Right now, Missouri has none.

As for state charges against Fiala, a neighbor started a petition pushing for them.

“I know it’s probably small apples," the neighbor said. "But in my mind, it gets the ball rolling and I feel like I’m doing something."

It would be up to the Cass County Prosecuting Attorney's Office to file the state charges. They have not responded to our questions.

Fiala is due in municipal court in March.

As for the German shepherd, police told the I-Team that they believe the dog is still at the trainer's house. They don't have a way to get in touch with the owner.

If you've sent your dog to this trainer, the I-Team wants to hear from you.

Police also would like to hear from you. You can call the Pleasant Hill Police Department at 816-540-9109.