Attorney General Mark Herring is filing suit against a Madison County service dog organization, claiming they deceived dozens of families in the Commonwealth and across the country.
"It's reprehensible not only because of what we allege are unlawful and deceptive business practices but also, it could endanger the health and lives of those patients with diabetes," said Attorney General Herring.
Herring says Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers (SWDR) violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions law. The lawsuit alleges that the organization sold what were supposed to be diabetic alert dogs, but Herring says instead, the dogs were poorly trained, ill-behaved and were unable to manage a life-threating situation, like when someone's blood sugar gets dangerously low.
The attorney general's office has been investigating the organization for years and says they have gotten at least 50 complaints from people all over the country. The lawsuit states that SDWR's CEO Charles Warren Jr. lied about serving in the Marines and training military dogs. Herring says the organization, which states on its website that they are a non-profit, is not registered to solicit for charitable donations.
"This company misrepresented what these dogs can do," said Herring. "They didn't have that ability and they were very expensive pets - in some cases charging tens of thousands of dollars."
The dogs were being sold from $18,000 to $27,000 but were not equipped to perform the life-saving duties families were told they could do. Herring says in some cases, the dogs were an untrained puppy that could not properly walk on a leash, were destructive, jumped on people, and were often barking or whining.
"We have now filed a complaint to get the people who have been victimized their money back," said Herring.
Speaking with a different, and accredited organization, Service Dogs of Virginia, they say extensive training is key. Dogs through Service Dogs of Virginia go through at least two years, sometimes more, of training.
"For individuals who can't sense when they're blood sugar is dropping, that's life-threatening," said Sally Day with Service Dogs of VA. "So enter a well-trained service dog who can detect the smell of dropping blood sugar and that dog knows that its job is to alert their person. By the time our dogs are placed with a diabetic client, it is alerting nonstop when it is smelling that dropping blood sugar. It's pretty amazing to see."
Day says it is important for the public to be aware of what organizations are and are not accredited, and the best practices for training service animals.
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