ORLANDO, Fla. - An Action 9 investigation raised serious questions about service dogs trained to help people who suffer seizures.
Since the first report about a south Florida company, Action 9 found more local families claiming they paid thousands for dogs that can't keep them safe. And consumer investigator Todd Ulrich uncovered that these dogs were supplied by a kennel the Humane Society calls a high-risk puppy mill.
Jason DeVito is seen on a video training a seizure alert dog. His company, Canines 4 Hope, claims the dogs help people suffering epileptic seizures by summoning help and even sensing impending seizures.
“Did you get the protection you paid for?” Ulrich asked.
“Definitely not,” Sarah Trask replied.
Trask bought a yellow Lab from Canines 4 Hope when she was suffering a half-dozen seizures a month. But Trask claims the dog, Lucy, failed to alert anyone during her seizures, even when she collapsed in the street.
“And she didn't react at all. She was just there,” Trask said.
She paid $12,000 for the dog and six months training.
“And here you are realizing all that money is going to waste,” Trask said.
She is one of four consumers Action 9 found claiming they paid Canines 4 Hope thousands for alert dogs that are sweet pets but nothing more.
“I feel like I got duped,” Nicole Rice said.
Rice paid $10,000 for a seizure alert Labrador. But she says the dog failed to protect her daughter, Sabrina.
“It's scary. I don't like to think what could have happened,” Sabrina said.
Since our first investigation, we've uncovered the breeder that supplies these dogs, like Lucy, could be a critical issue.
All four families have documents showing the company bought their dogs from Sho-Me Labradors in St. James, Missouri. That’s the same kennel listed by The Humane Society as one of the “Horrible Hundred Puppy Mills."
Its investigators found failed state preinspections that uncovered underweight dogs and large breeds confined to airline carriers.
“I was shocked and horrified,” said John Goodwin, director of The Humane Society's Stop Puppy Mills campaign.
He said a service dog trainer buying dogs from a puppy mill defies common sense.
“Puppies raised in puppy mills are more likely to have behavior problems and disease issues,” Goodwin said.
Canines 4 Hope owner DeVito told Action 9, Show-me Labradors had been a top-quality breeder, but he stopped using them two years ago and all dogs had a 26-month genetic health guarantee.
Kennel owner Sandy Kozlowski blamed failed inspections on her serious health issues but said her kennel had a 38-year history of breeding highly trainable dogs with excellent health.
Yet Trask and her husband John just discovered their 3-year-old dog suffers from hip dysplasia and a heart murmur.
“We paid for a needy dog. A disabled dog, essentially, for my disabled wife,” John Trask said.
DeVito says his company has successfully trained more than 250 service animals and the few complaints he has had were resolved.
The kennel owner said any buyer could return a dog that's sick or can't be trained. But in all these cases, the families had the dog for at least a year, and they have children who love the dog, so it's just not an option.
Jason DeVito response
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.
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.
Jason Devito response
It is true that at one time I did do business with Sandy at Sho-me labradors. In the past she was a top quality breeder of white colored labs. I have not done business with her in nearly two years. I know that she had some personal problems in her life due to the tragic loss of her son.
Any dogs purchased from her cane with a 26 month genetic health guarantee. If any of my clients dogs had genetic issues like hips, shoulders ,eyes and heart within that period of time she would have replaced the dog and I would have trained the dog at no cost. The Trasks did not notify me that anything was wrong with their dog.
The dogs that I sold to Jason all had excellent temperaments and were pre-trained in Basic Obedience by my son, Brian Kozlowski. Brian is a graduate from the Tom Rose School of Professional Dog Trainers. He is an excellent trainer and has trained numerous dogs with very happy clients, including celebrities dog owners. None of the dogs were housed in a kennel building, they all lived in my home were they were given lots of love and attention.
I have been breeding exclusively Labradors for over 38 years now. My dogs are World Famous (even before the Internet was popular), for their great temperament, excellent health and their gorgeous looks. I have always bred them to have a very mild, mellow temperament so they make excellent pets.
Last year was the 1st time in 38 years that my kennel did not pass inspection. It did not pass mostly because of my Health problems that are still present. On, October 19, 2016 our 18 year old son committed suicide, it is the most devastating thing a person can ever go though. To bury a child, our son, has drastically changed our lives. I went into a severe depression that I was unable to work. I didn’t even answer the phone for over 6 months. At this time I had several dogs that were of age to be sold and I had several dogs that were in pre-training and some older puppies being raised for Service Dogs. I also had pregnant dogs. The demand for the older dogs was so high that I tried to keep up with it. But when the tragedy happened my world stopped turning. I depended on my hired help to feed the dogs and to keep the kennel clean as it always had been. The number of dogs was increasing, since I wasn't selling any, so it was getting hard to keep up with them.
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