Thanks to Marion for sharing this article on the NAGDU email list. [Original article here.]
A custody battle is brewing over 25 “service dogs in training” in the Phoenix area.
The future service animals are owned by the Eye Dog Foundation for the Blind, a California-based non-profit group that operates a training center in Phoenix.
But a large group of volunteers, foster families that agreed to help raise the dogs, are refusing to return them.
“I couldn’t feel comfortable handing this dog back to a foundation that is not functioning and feel good about it,” Diana Anderson said.
Anderson and 24 other volunteers entered into agreements with the foundation to provide the dogs a home and bring them to training sessions at the foundation’s facility in South Phoenix.
The goal of the foundation is to train the dogs and then place them with the blind.
But volunteers like Eldon Ploetz say the foundation is in shambles, that dogs are not receiving the necessary training, and they claim not a single dog has been placed with a blind person in more than a year.
Ploetz and his wife have helped raise and foster Kiesha, a German shepherd.
In late September, Ploetz received a letter from the Eye Dog Foundation’s attorney stating, “DEMAND IS HEREBY MADE that you immediately return Kiesha to the Foundation.”
The letter continues, “I understand that you have breached at least two parts of this Agreement. You have not followed the instructions of the staff, and you have not attended all the Training Classes.”
Other volunteers received similar letters.
But the volunteers claim the trainers are not properly certified, and the ones that have been hired have not stayed on with the foundation.
Additionally, they say the Foundation had been shut down for weeks and they have neglected the dogs.
“We understand they cut off the food for the dogs that were in the kennel,” Ploetz said.
Ploetz’s wife said she would rather go to jail than give the Kiesha back to the foundation.
“They are valid concerns,” said Dacoda Whittemore, a former operations manager who worked at the foundation’s training facility for only a week.
Whittemore said the dogs are “absolutely” receiving better care with the foster families, “not just because the management isn’t functioning properly, but there?s no staff qualified on the foundation at this point to be able to take and care for these dogs properly.”
Dexter Morin, a former trainer at the facility agreed with Whittemore, submitting his resignation earlier this month.
Before leaving, Morin turned over several dogs to the foster families rather than leaving them at the training facility alone.
In his resignation letter, Morin wrote, “I contacted the puppy raisers to inform them of my concerns of leaving the dogs on the premises without the guarantee that they would be attended to.”
Morin goes on to state, “I in good conscience turned them over to the puppy raisers for the safe keeping of the dogs.”
The Eye Dog Foundation and its attorney have declined our repeated requests for an on-camera interview.
In a statement to ABC15, the Foundation’s attorney, John D. Clark, wrote, “The contract clearly states that each of the dogs belong to the Foundation, and gives no ownership rights whatsoever to any of the puppy raisers.”
The letter goes on to state that “the Foundation directed each of the puppy raisers in writing to return the Foundation’s puppies to the Foundation within five days. It now appears that the puppy raises are refusing to comply with the Foundation’s directive.”
I can’t imagine how they’ll recover from this, but certainly their current actions suggest that they’re closer to folding completely under than anything else. It’s really just a sad situation and to be truthful I’m quite appalled and disgusted at EDF for their completely callous attitude regarding their dogs.