Controversy surrounding services provided by Service Dogs Europe

image taken from the SDE Facebook page

image taken from the SDE Facebook page

Tracey has to date spent £4000 for a pet dog with medical needs that;

“may require a lifetime of support and veterinary treatment not covered fully by our insurance or at all if he were to be rehomed.  So now our lives are harder than they were before we signed up with Service Dogs Europe, financially with all the extra costs for a dog with these issues, physically with the vet trips and extra care, and mentally trying to plan and arrange cover as we can’t take the dog with us.”

Service Dogs Europe have ignored all phone calls, emails and the letter that Tracey has sent to them, and is now in the position of having to take legal action.

“I understand I am only one of many and that those who already managed to secure a refund have a ‘gagging clause’ on the settlement preventing them from speaking out.”

Another mother of a child with autism who has had dealings with SDE, has recently set up a campaign, You took my dog and the peoples money

Gillian O’Brien Murray states on her campaign page that when they received Star, the Autism Service Dog for her son Joseph, she was, ‘undernourished’ but that she put this down to new surroundings. But things only got worse, as Star refused to eat and would ‘cower’ when they tried to pet her. They had to take her to the vets were she was given injections.

‘When telling Henry this we were instructed to be more firm with her and even slap her on the nose!!things didn’t improve and Henry told us she must of slipped through the net to bring her back and go back on the puppy list, so we did as Henry stated she could never be a service dog!!’

Gillian further explains that they were given a date for a new pup, but that they never received one. When they then decided to get their money back, Gillian states that, ‘Henry refused and threatened us.’ The family gave 6,000€ and have since found out that Star has been rehomed with another family who care for an autistic child.

Elizabeth Wacker, a former service manager for the company, contacted us to share her story about her time working with them.

She told us:

“SDE claims to sell service dogs “trained to Assistance Dogs International (ADI) standards” for £6950. In reality puppies are sourced cheaply in Southern Ireland, many unregistered, in ill health, fearful or aggressive and many unable to perform the tasks they are supposedly trained to do.  Hundreds are exported to the UK illegally without worming, rabies vaccinations or the required paperwork.”

Elizabeth further explained that when families complain, their options are either to “forfeit the money and return the dog which is often then resold to another family, or continue to look after and pay for a sick or unsuitable dog. The very few families to obtain a refund have a gagging order in place preventing them from speaking out.”

What Elizabeth also told us was that The Equality Act 2010 does not specifically define the term ‘Assistance Dog’.

“Hence there is room for ‘interpretation’ whereby anyone can set up a business claiming to train assistance dogs with no experience, qualifications, inspection or accreditation.  Currently the only standards are those of the ADI, a voluntary group of charities working together to ensure that all guide, hearing, medical and service dogs provided through its members are bred, raised, trained and cared for according to strict protocols.”

As Elizabeth eloquently informed us, there needs to be clarity on the definition of an assistance dog in law.

“There needs to be debate on how this can be safely and effectively opened up so that owner-trainer teams and voluntary co-operatives can self-regulate under strict supervision to attain ADI standards and be assessed for the public access test.”

Having heard from both Elizabeth and Tracy, we are deeply shocked that vulnerable children and their families are being treated in this manner and that they are being plunged into debt. Obviously this industry needs to be regulated in order to safeguard both the dog and consumer.

Elizabeth ends by telling us:

“The debate needs to be now. Service Dogs Europe and those like them need to be shut down.”

We will keep you up to date with further developments of this story.