Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers (SDWR) is being accused of betraying the trust and taking the money of those seeking trained diabetic alert dogs.
According to Newsweek, a lawsuit filed out of Virginia claims the company sold untrained 3-month-old Labrador puppies at $25,000 each to those seeking a skilled diabetic alert dog (DAD), a service animal trained to detect dangerous changes in blood sugar levels and notify their owners of these shifts, often through a nudge, so they can take action.
The lawsuit was filed by Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring and named Warren Retrievers Inc. and CEO Charles D. Warren Jr, claiming the company violated Virginia’s Consumer Protection Act by presenting itself as a “itself as a nonprofit organization devoted to raising, training and placing service dogs with individuals who have ‘invisible disabilities,’ such as diabetes” and then charging clients between $18,000 and $27,000 for a diabetic alert dog, only to give them them puppies who could not follow basic commands let alone the specialized skills of a DAD.
“These individuals and families are told that, if they just raise $25,000 for SDWR, they will receive a trained DAD that can detect high and low blood sugar, get help, or even dial 911. In reality, in many instances these hopeful and vulnerable consumers receive poorly trained, ill-behaved dogs that are not equipped to help them manage a life-threatening disability and are little more than expensive pets,” reads the lawsuit.
For these alleged wrongs, the lawsuit is seeking refunds for the dogs who were not trained to provide the services promised and civil penalties for every violation to the Consumer Protection Act and Solicitation of Contributions law.
The lawsuit also alleges that the CEO of SDWR misrepresented his military background, and that no record of military service was found, even though the CEO publicly claims to have served in the Marines before being medically discharged because of a diabetes.
According to The Washington Post, this lawsuit was filed after a “lengthy” investigation based on complaints from over 50 SDWR clients, who were allegedly encouraged to solicit donations to SDWR and were given no support when they contacted the company about their poorly-trained dogs.
“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,” the Virginia Attorney General said in a statement. “Our investigation shows that, in many instances, Service Dogs was simply selling a $25,000 pet, leaving customers with a huge bill and no protection against a potentially life-threatening blood-sugar situation.”
When reached for comment, Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers provided the following statement from SDWR lawyer John B. Russell to PEOPLE:
We have not yet seen the Attorney General’s lawsuit, but we deny any allegation of wrongdoing and we absolutely deny that we have ever set out to mislead, cheat or defraud our many happy clients. Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers has a long history of serving people with invisible disabilities, including many people with Type I Diabetes. This long history of service includes being a recipient of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s “Spotlight” Award in 2017.
We have been working with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office to address any areas of concern they may have. In many areas, we had already changed our procedures long before their investigation began. The Attorney General’s Office, however, made it clear that they only wanted the complete destruction of SDWR and [SDWR Founder] Dan Warren. Over the last 8 months, Mr. Warren has suffered a series of debilitating brain injuries. His doctors indicated that the severe stress he was under certainly contributed to these brain injuries. This stress included the Attorney General’s investigation. Dan is working hard at rehab. The Attorney General’s Office has been aware of his condition for many months. I am personally very disappointed that an agency as important and powerful as the Attorney General’s Office would allow itself to wage such a personal campaign against a company that has done so much good and to take such an action while knowing the delicate medical condition of Mr. Warren and the possible effects this action could have.
We will review the lawsuit when we receive it, and we promise to fight these ridiculous allegations at every step. We ask that all of our loyal clients who are all fighting their own battles against invisible disabilities know that we continue to work with them and support their efforts in training and improving the performance of their support dogs.