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Tag: spikes

Virginia files lawsuit against company whose service dogs were “little more than pets”

diabetic

After years of complaints — and enough controversy and drama to rate an episode of Dr. Phil — the investigation into a company that supplies service dogs for diabetics and others has led to the filing of a lawsuit by Virginia’s Attorney General.

The lawsuit against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers was filed Tuesday in Madison County Circuit Court, accusing the company of violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act by charging $18,000 to $27,000 for 3-month-old Labrador retriever puppies that were unable to perform their task and had apparently received little or no training.

The company billed its dogs as highly trained lifesaving tools that were able to alert diabetics to dips or spikes in their blood sugar level by nudging them with a nose or a paw.

But what customers received, according to the lawsuit, were “little more than incredibly expensive pets” — some of them unable to walk properly on leashes, respond when called, or remain calm around loud noises or new people.

Customers were told that they would receive ample “scent training,” but that never came, and customer requests for assistance were regularly ignored, the lawsuit says.

“This suit alleges not just dishonest and unlawful business practices, but a recklessness that could have endangered the lives of customers who relied on the claims made by Service Dogs and its owner,” Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring said.

The lawsuit followed a lengthy investigation based on complaints from more than 50 customers, Herring’s office said.

In 2016, some of them appeared on a Dr. Phil episode about the company.

In addition to deceiving customers about the company’s dogs, the suit alleges, owner Charles D. Warren Jr. illegally encouraged them to solicit charitable donations. He also lied about having served in the military, according to the suit.

That lawsuit seeks restitution for customers as well as civil penalties and attorneys’ fees, The Washington Post reported.

On behalf of the company, John B. Russell Jr., an attorney representing the company, denied the allegations, saying “we absolutely deny that we have ever set out to mislead, cheat or defraud our many happy clients.”

Diabetic-alert dogs use their sensitive noses to detect fluctuations in blood-sugar levels, but studies on their effectiveness have been mixed.

Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers promised customers that assigned dogs possessed a “proven scent ability” and that they could be trained to seek help or even dial 911 on special devices, according to the attorney general’s lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, though, dogs arrived at consumers’ homes with no training and no apparent abilities to alert clients to shifts in their blood sugar levels.

The dogs have been sent to customers across the country, and the complaints range from Texas to Florida, where a woman says they stopped paying for the dog they received — only to be sued by the company.

Jovana Flores said the diabetic-alert dog for her 13-year-old son did little more than serve as a pet.

“In hindsight, now, maybe I should have been a little bit smarter, but you’re looking for any bit of hope,” Flores said.

(Photo: Service Dogs by Warren Retriever website)

Does your dog need protective body armor?

coyotevest

It may make your dog look like he’s a mix of punk rocker and porcupine, but otherwise we won’t poke too much fun at this protective vest, aimed at keeping dogs — especially smaller ones — safe from coyotes and other predators.

It was designed and is being marketed by a San Diego couple that lost their dog to a coyote. They started the business last year.

“Our goal is to help prevent others from experiencing the heartbreak we suffered when our beloved Buffy was killed,” Paul and Pam Mott say on the website for the Coyote Vest.

The basic vest goes for $70. It is made of Kevlar and has a spiked collar area.

coyotewhiskersFor another $20, you can get additional hard plastic spikes running down the sides of the vest. For another $20 you can get the attachable nylon, quill-like “whiskers,” designed to poke the face and eyes of any attacking predator.

And for $60 more, you can add on the “CoyoteZapper,” allowing you to use a remote device to send an electrical jolt to any creature that might be trying to run off with your small dog in its mouth.

“​The CoyoteZapper utilizes a dog training collar capable of delivering a painful shock. But instead of shocking your dog in the neck, it shocks the coyote in the mouth,” the website says.

While marketed as coyote protection, the website points out that the vest, and zapper strips, can also protect your dog from dog park bullies — or even another larger dog at home that may not be treating the smaller one with proper respect.

“…Zapper Strips are attached to either side of the CoyoteVest in such a way that it is practically impossible for a larger dog to pick up your small dog without his mouth touching both of them at the same time. If you push the button on the remote to activate the shock module the voltage will be directed though the Zapper Strips directly into the mouth of the attacker. The shock is harmless, but painful enough to make the attacker let go.”

We’ve never been fans of zapping dogs with electricity, for whatever purpose, and using them as conductors thereof is a little problematic, too — though we’ll admit to briefly wondering whether similar protective wear might be effective in keeping school bullies at bay. (In reality, the outfit would likely only lead to more teasing.)

Effective as the Coyote Vest might be in saving a small dog from a coyote or hawk, we’re not sure — for similar reasons — whether the protective vest, or at least its attachments, belong in a dog park. It could end up drawing attention from curious dogs, including a few who might mistake your little one for a chew toy.

The Motts say the fully equipped vests do draw attention, at least from humans.

When they took their dogs Cody, Scooter and Sparky (yes, Sparky!) to the 2015 Carmel Poodle Day Parade dressed in their vests “everybody thought they were the most adorable ‘punk rock’ costumes created just for fun. They really are a lot cooler looking than we expected.”

(Photos: Coyotevest.com)

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.”