JEFFERSON — A 49-year-old Fort Atkinson woman who is charged in Jefferson County Circuit Court with killing a dog that she was training has been ordered to undergo a mental competency investigation, with a competency hearing in court to follow on Oct. 8.
Tammy S. Flemming had been bound over for arraignment and trial in Jefferson County on a charge of felony mistreatment of a dog named Cooper, causing his death when, in June, she failed to appear for a court hearing. This led to a bench warrant being issued for her arrest by Judge Robert Dehring. Flemming was eventually located and made a court appearance Thursday, at which her competency evaluation was ordered.
The incident involving Flemming and Cooper allegedly occurred Sept. 11, 2020 in Fort Atkinson.
A criminal complaint in the original matter stated that, on Sept. 11, 2020 Fort Atkinson Police Officer Adam Lawrence spoke with Cooper’s owner. The woman told him that the 8-month-old dog was being trained at Herman’s Hangout in Fort Atkinson and that she had received a call from the dog trainer there, Flemming, who told her that Cooper had died.
The dog owner said that Flemming told her that she had pushed Cooper too far and that she “messed up.”
Lawrence then went to Herman’s Hangout and spoke with Flemming.
“Tammy stated that she was doing her final training for the night with Cooper at approximately 10:30 p.m.,” the complaint said. “She had Cooper on a choker chain. She stated the way she trains is by a method called, ‘release of pressure,’ which means the dog will decide how much pressure is applied to achieve compliance.”
The complaint stated that, under the method used by Flemming, it is common for a dog to yelp, or react when using a choker chain.
“That is when they know to relieve the pressure,” the complaint stated. “Cooper had been with Tammy for four weeks and had been doing very well on the choker chain. During this time, Tammy was asking Cooper to sit, but he was in a ‘power struggle’ with Tammy and had begun ‘fighting’ her by thrashing his head back and forth. This caused Tammy to continue with pressure on the chain.”
Flemming told Lawrence this was a command that Cooper had successfully demonstrated many times before.
“She attempted to give a loud verbal command to gain compliance and stop the thrashing,” according to the complaint. “This did not work and Cooper kept ‘fighting.’”
Flemming noticed Cooper’s back legs became weak and she released the chain. Tammy noticed that Cooper began to breathe shallow and slowly. She then gave him mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions, but he died. Flemming told Lawrence that she did not recognize that Cooper was in trouble.
“I asked Tammy what she believed happened to Cooper,” Lawrence said in the complaint. Flemming said she believed he had an adrenalin rush and was possibly over-exerted, but she did not recognize it soon enough.”
A necropsy was performed on the dog by veterinarian Philip N. Bochsler at the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Lab. Bochsler produced a report indicating findings in the case were consistent with strangulation.
If she is convicted on the animal abuse charge, Flemming could face a fine of up to $10,000, and three years and six months in jail.
Her next court appearance in Jefferson County is for the competency hearing on Oct. 8.