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Tag: service dogs

Recipients say agency’s diabetic alert dogs aren’t performing as promised

Three North Texas families say the diabetic alert dogs they received from a Virginia-based nonprofit aren’t alerting them to anything, and have turned out to be nothing more than expensive house pets.

The three families are among 30 that have filed complaints against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, according to NBC 5 in Dallas.

Each of the three paid up to $20,000 for what they were told were specialized service dogs trained to alert them to spikes and drops in blood sugar and help them manage Type 1 diabetes.

Mindy Guidry said the dog she received to help her daughter manage her diabetes has failed to detect any blood sugar spirals. On top of that, the dog is afraid to go out in public.

“I cannot take her out in public at all. Even in our own household she’s scared,” Guidry said.

Krista Middleton told NBC 5 that her dog doesn’t alert her when her blood sugar is dropping dangerously low.

“And then I’m passing out. I’m going into comas. My kids are finding me in seizures,” said Middleton. “It gets to the point where, as a mom, I wanted to make sure my kids weren’t the ones to find me convulsing.”

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers says it offers a one- to two-year training program with initial in-home sessions of up to five days, long-distance training and education and up to seven more multi-day visits.

Middleton and Guidry both failed to complete the training program, a spokeswoman for the agency said, and both still owe the agency money.

Middleton said when she informed the non-profit her dog wasn’t working, she got no response.

But Warren Retrievers spokeswoman Jennifer Bulotti told NBC 5 when a dog isn’t working “instant intervention and training is provided.”

Dan Warren, founder and president of the nonprofit, was convicted of passing forged documents in 2008, before he started his service dog agency. While working at a car dealership, he had someone prepare phony tax returns to help customers get loans for cars, NBC 5 reported. He was sentenced to five years’ probation

Tax records from 2012 list his salary from the service dog agency as $157,411.

The Virginia Attorney General’s office has received 30 complaints against Warren Retrievers, but declined to discuss the details of any of them.

Providers of service dogs operate relatively free of government regulation or required standards, and some think it’s time for that to change.

“This is an industry that’s fraught with fraud,” said Brent Brooks, president of The Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance (DADA). “It angers me to have to say it but you have to be skeptical.”

Best Western could do better


You’d think a big hotel-motel chain would know and share the rules when it comes to service dogs — even one whose inns are “individually owned and operated.”

By federal law, service dogs are allowed. No ifs, ands or buts.

But a Best Western in Baton Rouge, citing its policy prohibiting dogs, recently denied reservations to a North Carolina family whose golden retriever serves as an epilepsy alert dog to their 13-year-old son, Beau.

Chip goes everywhere with Beau, who has a rare type of epilepsy called Landau-Kleffner Syndrome. “Chip alerts us to when Beau is having a seizure,” Beau’s mother, Karen Vaughn, told KPLC.

But after Vaughn made an online reservation at a Best Western in Baton Rouge, pointing out that service dog Chip would be among their party, the motel notified her that the reservation was being refused because the inn doesn’t allow dogs.

Vaughn, who is an attorney specializing in the rights of children with special needs, said that after she raised a stink the corporate office called back, a week later, saying they would honor the reservation. She said no thanks.

Normally, we would say sue the pants off the motel’s individual owner, and sue the pants off Best Western corporate honchos, too.

But Best Western has an unusual corporate structure — one they’ve argued doesn’t comprise a profit-making corporation, but is more of a cooperative. All hotels are individually owned and operated, and Best Western, from its headquarters in Phoenix, provides only reservations, marketing, brand identity and support services.

Individual owners of Best Western inns are allowed to make their own rules — but not rules that violate federal laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A Best Western spokesman told ohmidog! that the Baton Rouge motel has been temporarily banned from representing itself as a Best Western hotel.

“Best Western International has restricted the hotel on our reservations systems and we have required the hotel to stop representing itself as a Best Western branded hotel (cover or remove all Best Western signs and logos) until its representatives attend a hearing at our corporate headquarters at which their future association with Best Western will be decided,” he said.

“Best Western International requires each independently owned and operated hotel to comply with all federal, state and local laws and standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We provide extensive training to ensure our hotels understand and address the needs of guests with special needs. When this matter came to our attention, we immediately provided direction to the hotel and a reservation was offered to the family.

“We deeply regret the matter and we will continue to proactively communicate ADA requirements and training to Best Western branded hotels to ensure all guests are treated with the utmost dignity and respect.”

Best Western’s website boasts about their 1,600 pet-friendly locations.

Pit bull accepts diploma for his master

A pit bull received a diploma at Idaho State University’s graduation ceremony last Saturday, walking on stage in place of his master, who died in February.

Cletus, a black and white pit bull, belonged to Joshua Kelly, and was the geology student’s service dog.

Kelly, who had epilepsy, was finishing his final two classes when he was hospitalized and died on Feb. 13.

Cletus accompanied Kelly to school daily, walking two miles to catch a 6:30 a.m. bus from Idaho Falls to ISU.

When Kelly suffered a seizure and fell, as he did a few times, Cletus would stand over him until the seizure ended.

On Saturday, Cletus, accompanied by Kelly’s father, Terrell, walked on stage to claim Joshua’s diploma. Joshua received a bachelor of science degree in geology posthumously, KIDK reported.

Terrell Kelly said he’d never been a fan of pit bulls, until Cletus.

“I’ll be honest. I was one of them that was giving them (pit bulls) a bad rep until I met Cletus. And he allows our little grandchildren to climb on him, pull his ears, pull his tail. He’s just great.”

After accepting the diploma, with Cletus at his side, Terrell held the folder in the air and said, “This is for Josh.”

Did you hear the one about the guide dog in a nudist community?

fowlerandlauraA homeowner’s association at Paradise Lakes Resort doesn’t have weight limits when it comes to human residents, and we guess that’s a good thing — even though the condo community is a clothing-optional one.

But the association’s rules run a little stricter for dogs, including one that bans any dogs over 25 pounds — apparently even when it’s a guide dog that belongs to a legally blind resident of the nudist community.

By now you’ve probably guessed that this can only be happening in Florida, specifically in Lutz, where a homeowner’s association has told Sharon Fowler she needs to get rid of her black Labrador, Laura, or move out, according to a lawsuit.

Fowler filed a lawsuit against the association last year. It was dismissed by one judge, but now that dismissal has been overturned by an appeals court, and Fowler has renewed her fight to keep the dog she says she can’t get around without.

“She helps me to get around curbs and obstacles,” Fowler told the Tampa Bay Times.  “She’s 100 percent necessary to me. She’s my lifeline.”

According to a lawsuit filed last year, Fowler received a letter from the association telling her to get rid of the dog or move out.

The association said the dog violated their weight limits — something that wasn’t pointed out when Fowler filled out an application, disclosing the dog’s weight, when she moved in.

Even when Fowler provided documentation of her disability, the association did not withdraw the notice of the violations, according to the lawsuit.

“I felt demeaned, and I felt degraded,” Fowler said. “I’ve never felt so degraded.”

Her lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages for mental anguish.

“It’s the principle of the fact,” Fowler’s husband, Craig, said. “The board needs to know they cannot bully us around.”

Fowler says she has been told to only walk the dog in specific areas, and stay out of the way of pedestrians. She’s also been told her dog is out of control, which she says is not the case.

“My dog is a highly trained service animal,” she said.

“Paradise Lakes Resort does not discriminate against any person with physical disabilities and does not prevent any person with service animals from visiting the resort,” owner Jerry Buchanan said.

Fowler’s accusations were directed at a homeowners condominium association not connected with the resort.

Fowler says she has a rare autoimmune disease called leukocytoclastic vasculitis, which has already affected her sight and could affect her hearing.

She doesn’t want to move because she has learned her way around Paradise Lakes, and appreciates being able to live in a clothing optional community.

(Photo: Fowler and Laura; by Brendan Fitterer / Tampa Bay Times)

Judge shuts down “seizure dog” business

Jon C. Sabin, ordered by a judge last week to stop training and selling service dogs to families of sick children, says any instances of his dogs not performing properly were the fault of the families.

“The dogs are trained when I’m there, but after I leave everything goes to hell in a handbasket,” said Sabin, who was accused by the New York Attorney General’s Office of duping more than a dozen families into believing the dogs he sold them — for as much as $20,000 each – were trained.

Sabin, who ran Seizure Alert Dogs For Life, was ordered by a judge last week to never again train or sell service dogs.

He has promised to fight the ruling, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

Sabin said families who have complained about their dogs have only themselves to blame — for not following through with the training plans that he made for them and for treating the service dogs like pets even though he advised them not to, according to Syracuse.com

“You don’t put these dogs in your bed. You don’t give them meatballs from the kitchen table,” Sabin said.

Sabin was sued by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for selling more than a dozen families untrained dogs he said could detect and control seizures in their ill children.

Court papers described how the families paid thousands of dollars for the dogs only to find they couldn’t detect seizures, much less do anything about them.

Sabin says he suffers from epileptic seizures, and that he developed his program after his medication failed to control them. Sabin estimated that, since 2009, he has sold and trained about 50 dogs

Not all of his customers are unhappy. The Stevens family in Washington D.C. bought a dog from Sabin three years ago for their son, Andrew, who has a severe form of epilepsy. The dog has detected hundreds of seizures and swiped the magnet on her collar over Andrew’s chest, activating a device in the child’s chest that stimulates his vagus nerve and stops the seizure, according to the family.

The state says Sabin “deceptively promoted dogs as ‘highly trained service dogs,’ when in fact he undertook no steps to select appropriate dogs for service work, nor did he undertake any relevant training of these animals prior to selling them.”

A judge last Tuesday issued permanent injunctions prohibiting Sabin and his company from advertising or selling dogs trained to assist people suffering from epilepsy or other medical conditions.

“Through a Dog’s Eyes” re-airs tonight

PBS will be showing an encore presentation tonight of “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” a documentary that followed four families on their journey to receiving a service dog.

The program, which highlights the non-profit service dog organization Canine Assistants, originally aired April 21.

It can be seen tonight — Wednesday – at 8 p.m. (eastern), 7 p.m. (central).

Through a Dog’s Eyes

As the founder of one of the country’s largest service dog organizations, Jennifer Arnold has spent the last 20 years breeding, training and matching service dogs for people with disabilities or special needs.

Now she has documented that mission, which began when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 16, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I remember not wanting to leave the house,” she said. “I felt very awkward, scared. It surprised me how frightened I was to be left alone. You feel so vulnerable.”

throughdogseyesArnold’s book, “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” comes out in September. A PBS documentary based on the book and narrated by Neil Patrick Harris debuts April 21.

Arnold and her family decided to set up their own service dog training school when, as a teenager, she was diagnosed and found herself in a wheelchair. She applied, but was so far down the list that the family began making plans for their own service dog academy.

Three weeks later, though, her father, a surgeon,was hit and killed by a drunken motorcycle driver. Arnold and her mother spent the next 10 years raising funds, and incorporated on Dec. 31, 1991. They started training their first dog the next year. Canine Assistants is now among the largest service dog providers in the country.

“Through a Dog’s Eyes” looks at Arnold’s treat-based teaching methods, five of the people to which the organization has provided dogs and how the dogs have helped them regain independence.

One of them is Bryson Casey, 30, of Kansas City, Mo., who served in Iraq as a captain with the National Guard. He came home and was in a car crash that left him a quadriplegic. He and his dog Wagner bonded instantly.

Arnold is now 46, her disease is in remission and she is married to the academy’s staff veterinarian.

In the last 20 years, Canine Assistants has given away 1,000 dogs; there is a waiting list of nearly 2,000. The organization does not charge for the dogs, and will pay for food and vet bills for the life of the dogs, if needed. The recipients are asked to do community service in return.

Canine Assistants breeds its own dogs, and trains rescue and shelter dogs. There are 150 dogs in training year-round. About 5 percent fail to make the program and are placed as pets.

It costs about $22,000 to train a service dog, Arnold said.

The book can be pre-ordered from Random House.