Dogs who died in transport were drugged according to owners


TOPEKA (KSNT) – The controversial and often convoluted story of two Great Danes that died while being transported is now a little clearer.

According to Bill Ervin, the owner of the dogs who hired a Topeka company to transport his two dogs during a move from Michigan to California said the dogs were drugged.

Ervin said in a social media post the necropsy results are back, and according to the family, the results show both dogs were injected with Xylazine, a drug commonly used to put dogs under anesthesia. Also, one of the dogs had Ketamine in its system, a horse tranquilizer. 

Ervin told KSNT that his vet’s assumption is that he knocked them out so he wouldn’t have to stop so much to allow them to get out of the van. The driver made incredibly good time from Michigan to California. He left Michigan at 9 a.m. on Monday and got to California at midnight on Wednesday. We have learned that with large dogs like this, they need to get out and walk around and drink about every two hours. There’s no way he could’ve accomplished that if they were conscious. He gave them too much and killed them.

The couple hired had VIP Pet Delivery based in Topeka to transport the couple’s two Great Danes, Penny and Cookie, and cat Nellie.

Only the cat Nellie would make it to the new home in California.

Both dogs died during the trip despite being cleared by a vet just a week prior. The cause of the deaths was a mystery to the owners until a necropsy at a California state lab provided the Ervin’s an explanation as to what happened to their beloved dogs.

The Ervins had filed a claim with Rachael Cottrell’s insurance company and were denied. She is the owner of VIP Pet Delivery out of Topeka, KS. Since she hired another carrier without our knowledge, they are not obligated to do anything.

About 10 days prior to the scheduled pick-up date, the pet transportation company sent the couple a text that’s been shared with KSNT that another one of the drivers named Shawn would be taking over after someone in the family was exposed to another person who was positive for Covid-19.

Rachel Cottrell, the owner of the company assured the Ervin’s that her family would do the transport themselves.

Both Cottrell and Ervin’s shared texts with us confirming this change with the company’s driver, Shawn, taking over. The messages also state that Cottrell would still handle all logistics and payments and any questions or concerns.

“We were going to have another driver named Shawn do the transport but he backed out on us at the last minute,” Cottrell said.

The family was never informed that Shawn was no longer available. Instead of informing them of the change, Cottrell worked with a man named Randy Snyder, the owner of another delivery service ShipPetsOnline to handle the family’s cross-country trip.

Snyder then turned the job over to his driver Jack Nakamoto Jr., but in Facebook messages provided to us from Cottrell, it shows that she instructed Snyder to tell Nakamoto Jr. to say his name was Shawn to avoid any confusion.

Nakamoto Jr. obliged, lying to the family when he arrived at their home.

Initially, Cottrell provided the family with updates she received from either Snyder or Nakamoto Jr., sending the family texts saying things like, “In Iowa, stopped for a potty break.”

KSNT was sent this video, showing one of the Great Danes lying on the grass on her side, while the other is standing inches away.

In the video, Nakamoto Jr. can be heard saying “Dude, she won’t get up, she can’t walk no more.”

Then just before the animals were expected to be delivered in Napa, Bill Ervin received a call from the driver’s father, Jack Nakamoto Sr., explaining that his son was too upset to call to tell them the dogs had died.

“Just flat out said, I don’t know how to tell you this but your dogs are dead,” Ervin said while describing the unexpected phone call from the delivery driver’s father, “I have video of them being dead and that I cremated them.”

KSNT has since learned the crematorium the dogs were taken to in San Bernadino, California sensed there was something suspicious going on and didn’t cremate the dogs.

Nakamoto Sr. told us he didn’t know what to do, the dogs were decomposing and started to smell, he thought the humane thing to do would be to have them cremated.

Since Nakomoto Jr. denied all of our calls for this story, we asked his father if he had any idea how the dogs died, and he responded, “How do I know?”

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