• Action 9: Woman says service dog fails to protect her epileptic son

    By: Gerry Mendiburt , Todd Ulrich

    Updated:

    OCOEE, Fla. - An Ocoee mom bought a specialized service dog to protect her son who suffers epileptic seizures.

    Cora Ners paid $13,000 but claims the trainer failed to provide a dog to keep her son safe.

    “Skye. Skye. Come,” 8-year-old Christian Ners said, calling his yellow Labrador who had been trained to save his life.

    “I was in desperate need of an alert dog for my son,” his mother said.

    Ners wanted a seizure dog to respond to her son's epileptic attacks. The specialized service animals are trained to alert caregivers when minutes count.


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    “The dog would verify that he was having a seizure and come and notify me,” said Ners.

    After a grand mal seizure hospitalized her son, she found Canines 4 Hope in South Florida.

    She paid $13,000 for a dog trained to protect her son, Christian, but within weeks she had doubts.

    “We've had to replace all the carpets in our house,” Cora Ners said.

    “Not housebroken?” asked consumer investigator Todd Ulrich.

    “No,” she replied.

    “Not even close?” Ulrich asked.

    “No,” she said.

    “Not crate trained?” Ulrich asked.

    “No,” Cora Ners said.

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    Christian told Ulrich he loves playing with Skye but there was a problem.

    “She's totally shifty,” Christian said.

    “What do you mean?” Ulrich asked.

    The dog “goes crazy and stuff,” Christian said.

    “She does?” Ulrich questioned.

    “Yes,” Christian said.

    One day when his mother was in another room, Christian suffered the seizure she feared.

    According to Ners, there weren’t any alerts from the dog, there was just silence before and during the attack.

    When she reached her son, his oxygen was dangerously low and then the dog interfered with the paramedics.

    “Had I been in a five- or 10-minute shower, my son could be dead right now,” said an emotional Ners. “My 8-year-old, and that's heartbreaking.”

    She claims the owner of Canines 4 Hope, Jason DeVito, blamed her for not following training guidelines. And he offered a partial refund of about $5,000 but since then she claims she has not heard from him.

    “I've contacted him multiple times with no response,” Ners said.

    Action 9 found seven complaints against Canines 4 Hope with the Better Business Bureau, some involve training that failed to provide medical alerts.

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    The company’s corporate address is a home near Stuart. Ulrich went there for answers.

    “Can I ask you questions about Canines 4 Hope?” Ulrich asked through the glass doors.

    DeVito wasn't home but his wife, who works with the company, was.

    “This woman claims the dog wasn't trained to save her son's life,” Ulrich said.

    “The woman did not follow our recommended procedures. Please get off our property,” said Mrs. DeVito.

    Later Jason DeVito told Ulrich that their contract didn't guarantee early seizure alerts, he also claimed Ners only asked for $5,000 at first and he paid it, and that he's willing to retrain the dog.

    But Ners says she wants to find another trainer to protect her son.

    “I wish he would make this right. It can be life or death with epilepsy,” she said.

    Jason DeVito says his company successfully trained more than 250 service animals and the few complaints he had were resolved.

    This type of service animal can cost thousands, so consumers need to do their homework first.

    There are many non-profit companies that train medical alert dogs. Check to see if the training company is accredited by Assistance Dog International, considered the experts in training medical alert dogs.

    Canines 4 Hope response:

    I would like to point out that I acknowledge the fact that Miss Ners was experiencing some issues with Sky once she was placed in the home.

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    Miss Ners and Christian had visited Sky a few times during training, It was my opinion that Sky had completed her training at our facility and was then ready to go home with her new family to begin the bonding process.  It was understood by both parties that although Sky's training was completed at the facility the next step of training was to train Miss Ners how to become Sky's handler, so she can benefit her son Christian.  It was noted that Miss Ners was experiencing some adjustment problems with her dog which is not uncommon for the first month while the dog is getting acclimated to their new home.

    As you can see Miss Ners requested a partial refund for Sky's training and also denied me any continuing training to rectify the problem.

    I agreed to Miss Ners request for a partial refund and fulfilled it as a said I would.

    You can also clearly see stated on our contract that Canines4Hope does not guarantee their dog will early detect a seizure.

    You can also see that on Sky's evaluation in which Miss Ners signed that not following through with the information provided in the evaluation and training that Sky is capable of regressing.

    Miss Ners also stated that she would not slander my name or that of Canines4hope.  That was obviously not true based on her google and yelp review as well as reaching out to some of my Facebook inquiries.

    Canines4hope has trained over 250 service animals.  It is true that i have had my share of problems with dogs adjusting to their new home.  As you can see on my BBB reviews 95% of the problems I encountered were dealt with to the clients satisfaction.

    I’m not denying the fact that Miss Ners experienced problems with Sky and that she was not performing all of the tasks outlined on our contract.  My issue is that I agreed to Miss Ners demands for compensation and was denied any follow up training to resolve the issues they were dealing with.  furthermore, after satisfying her request for partial compensation, Miss Ners now decides to seek further compensation after her original terms where met and satisfied.

    It's unfair to judge me and my company based on the negative reviews of a half a dozen instances that were predominately resolved to the customers satisfaction. Canines4Hope has successfully trained dozens of seizure response dogs.


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