PLEASE READ! — Eye Dog Foundation’s Shepherds

[EDIT: For information on how you can contribute help, please click here.]

UPDATE: Volunteer puppy raisers win in court! More information to come.

Last updated: April 6, 2010 @ 9:21 AM EDT

For more than a year the volunteer puppy raisers for the Eye Dog Foundation have been fighting with the school. Even though they have taken back nearly every guide dog puppy, the school has not placed a guide dog in over two-and-a-half years and the conditions in the kennels are quite unsettling.

The school has had a bad reputation for quite some time now for inexperienced and unqualified training staff and for continuing to take in MILLIONS of dollars without working towards their core mission. The dogs currently at the school have been without formal training for over 14 months. (“Formal training” here meaning guide dog training from a qualified instructor.) These are dogs that were raised in loving homes by puppy raisers and their families and now are being left in their cages, barking incessantly, while the school’s gates remain padlocked.

It should be noted that the school still maintains that these dogs will become guide dogs, even though they do not currently employ an “industry standard” instructor. As the school is headquartered in CA, it also falls under that state’s guide dog regulations put in place by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Board; regulations that EDF has historically not been following. In fact, the school has even bred another string of puppies since recalling back all their dogs — these puppies have lived their entire lives at the kennel. All of these GSDs have been without any real human interaction, certainly not the environment to maintain the high standard to which a future guide dog requires.

Don’t just take my word, though; please read the various news regarding the situation for yourself.

Yesterday, I received an email from one of the puppy raisers who has been diligently working towards helping these dogs. The problem, it would seem, is that no one is listening. And my best guess is because they are fighting this battle almost completely alone. Word has spread, albeit slowly, but no real action has been taken. As stated in the email: “You name the governing body, we have contacted them all.”

My hope is the same as this puppy raiser’s, that we can do something for these dogs and raise awareness of the horrific situation going on with EDF. I am urging you, whatever your interest level, to please spread the word about this situation. Please feel free to link this post if you would like. If you have any suggestion in a way to help the puppy raisers and the German shepherds, you can leave a comment on this post or email me. I will edit this post as necessary with whatever information I receive.

Articles and News Stories:

Ways to Help:

  1. Spread the news! Please share this post’s link with as many people as possible. The more awareness of these issues, the more likely something will be done.
  2. File a complaint with the California State Attorney General! Fill out the form and mail it to the address listed below. You can also email your complaint.
    [EDIT: Others who emailed their complaints have alerted me that they received a reply email stating complaints must be written and that they needed to use the PDF form and mail in their complaint.
    EDIT #2: Received a form response five weeks after sending my complaint.]
  3. Send the California Guide Dog Board a complaint. Instructions for both email and mail-in forms are at the link.
    [EDIT: The response I recieved to my complaint was to file a complaint with the AG’s office.]
  4. Lodge a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
  5. Mail the CA Department of Corporations a complaint.
    [EDIT: I received a reply to my complaint, stating this type of situation is best handled by the Guide Dog Board and they had forwarded it accordingly.]
  6. Contact the EDF Board of Directors. Addresses are listed below.
    [EDIT: You can view my letter here.]
  7. More information coming soon. . . .

Contact Information and Addresses:
Office of the Attorney General
Registry of Charitable Trusts
PO Box 903447
Sacramento, CA 94203
(916) 445-2021

Board of the Guide Dogs for the Blind
1625 North Market Boulevard, Suite S-202
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 574-7825

Department of Corporations
Consumer Services Office
1515 K Street, Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95814
(866) 275-2677

Eye Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.
211 South Montclair Street, Suite A
Bakersfield, CA 93309
(800) 393-3641

EDF Board of Directors
Gwen Brown, Executive Director
PO Box 580
Claremont, CA 91711

Michael Hannon
PO Box 580
Claremont, CA 91711

Lucille Gibbons
7622 Katella Ave
Stanton, CA 90680

On behalf of the volunteer puppy raisers and German shepherds of EDF, I wholeheartedly thank you.

Comments

  1. That is absolutely awful! Things like this should not be allowed to happen, ever, especially for this long. Will research more and contact whomever! This EDF is a definite #Fail for the pups/dogs.

    • Wow, major WP.com fail – totally ate your comment as spam!

      Anyway, thanks Kelly. I have some more information that I’ll be adding to the post — right now I’m sifting through the metric ton of email this has generated for me.

  2. I have never heard of EDF. Where are they and what do they supposedly do? I will certainly repost! This is a horrible situation!

  3. I recommend that you obtain a list of the members of the Board of Directors of EDF. Usually these people are prominent business people in their community, and would not like to be associated with adverse publicity regarding charities they support. A well-written letter to each of these people, with copies to the state agency which regulates charities, might be one possible tactic.

    • Once I can find the contact information. I certainly will add it to the post. This is seemingly well hidden information because I can’t find it via the Internet, but perhaps the contacts I have with the puppy raisers can turn up something. Thanks!

  4. The volunteer puppy raisers have requested to meet with the Board of Directors. However, the Ex. Director Ms. Gwen Brown has refused in the past to allow that to happen. We know the names of some of the board members but it might not be current as Brown keeps that information tightly guarded. I personally tried to call and talk to one of the board members and was surprised how little he seemed to care about what was going on.

    Other members are extremely old and when contacted by a reporter stated they really didn’t know much about the school. It would appear that Gwen Brown has had groomed an Executive Board that allows her to operate freely. Several attempts have been made by volunteers and blind graduates to be allowed on the board however Brown so far has refused them.

    It is highly unusual that a school of this nature, not to have qualified individuals who have industry involvement, not to be admitted to the board of Directors. But nothing about Eye Dog Foundation is normal. That fact alone leaves you to surmise why things are in such a state today. With no one at the helm that has the “know how” on how to best run a school, has left the door wide open for all these problems to arise.

    I will try once again to see if I can get EDF lawyers to give out the information concerning those on the board. We will go from there. Thanks for all your concerns and help.

    • Yeah, I kind of gathered that the Board’s information was a bit hidden since I couldn’t find any mention of it on EDF’s site and came up with nothing doing a web search. Very odd.

      Thanks for any information you can turn up. :-)

  5. When a friend first sent me some of the articles, I asked a lot of questions, and I was told many state and local officials/organizations (including the CA and AZ Attorney Generals offices) were sent lots of information including facts and testimonials as to what was going on here…and still NOTHING has happened. I don’t get it!!! Aren’t elected officials supposed to follow up and do investigations on such accusations…and submit reports of their findings?!! Is it a case of “the squeeky wheel gets the grease”?!!! Even if this organization somehow pairs a dog with a blind person, if the trainer is not “industry recognized” as being well qualified & experienced, would this not be potentially dangerous for the blind person and the dog?!!

  6. My husband and I are the “puppy raisers” of one of those beautiful intellligent dogs that is now barking in one of the kennels at the EDF. It breaks our hearts to know that she isn’t allowed to do the job she was born to do. She would have been the most loving companion and willing helper anyone could ask for. We hated to part with her and would take her back in a minute given the chance. But, our original desire was for her to be a blind person cmpanion and that doesn’t look like it will ever happen. She is now over three years old and deserves to be in a loving home. If EDF won’t do their part we should have her here with us where she will be loved.

  7. I am a puppy raiser for one of the GSD “puppies” that currently resides at the EDF facility. I relinquished him as a part of a settlement agreement between the lawyer representing the EDF and a wonderful lawyer who was kind enough to work pro bono for the puppy raisers.

    My dog is now more than 3 and 1/2 years old. He has spent more than a year of his life locked in those kennels. This was the third time he was turned in for “training” at the EDF. On the previous two occasions he was returned to me by trainers who quit because of poor working conditions including, I believe, lack of food for the dogs, lack of proper medical care for the dogs, non-existent paychecks, inability to do their jobs (being denied the chance to pair the dogs with blind students)…

    These wonderful, loyal, skillful, obedient dogs are languishing away locked all day in kennels. By all reports we’ve been provided via the EDF lawyer, they have 1 “trainer” and 1 “puppy coordinator” and 1 “groundskeeper” working with them. This trio, even if properly trained and working 12 hour days, could not possibly be able to provide 17 + dogs with adequate attention, let alone the proper rigorous field training necessary for a guide dog.

    More importantly, these dogs are being robbed of the vital human bond that their loyal nature craves.

    The last time my dog was returned to me after 4 months of “training” at the EDF, he showed obvious signs of psychological trauma. Where he was previously confident, he became jumpy and skittish. He was fearful and insecure where he used to be bold and courageous. At that time he had been with an overworked trainer who was qualified.

    I fret every day about the toll this 7 month stint in “training” is taking on him.

    According to the timeline set out in our settlement agreement, he should’ve already been trained and placed with a blind student or returned to my care and ownership. Neither has taken place, despite repeated contacts both personally and through lawyers.

    To my knowledge, not a single dog has even encountered a blind student, let alone been paired to be trained with one.

    It’s a crime. My heart breaks that I am powerless to effect a positive outcome for these dogs despite having attempted to do so in so many different ways (we’ve contacted lawyers, media, law enforcement, atty. general in 2 states, guide dog board in CA, board of directors of EDF, blind community…). Legislation needs to be enacted to stop another “charity” from doing something like this again.

  8. I have contacted EDF many times and have never received a call back. I am legally blind and in need of a guide dog. It was my hope for a German Shepherd guide dog.The last call I made to inquire about getting a guide dog was Feb.4,2010. Still no answer. I would so love to have one of those wonderful dogs,and I don’t understand why they won’t even call me back. I guess I will never get my dog. My calls to EDF have gone unanswered since Oct. 2003.I am very disappointed and worry that those poor dogs will be forever emotionally scarred as German Shepherds need human companionship and training to remain loyal and loving dogs.By keeping them caged and not training them,they could become fearful, vicious and uncontrollable. This could lead to a very bad end for the poor animals. This does not have to happen if the proper athorities step in and get those poor dogs out of there.Why is this being allowed to continue???????????

    • Maybe it’s a good thing they haven’t called you back. Personally, I wouldn’t want one of those GSDs currently locked up at the school considering how very long they have been kenneled without any consistent training. Any school that would treat their dogs so does not deserve to have clients.

      The whole situation is just so incredibly unsettling.

  9. And the situation at the Eye Dog Foundation (EDF) gets even more interesting! Some of the dogs that have been sitting at EDF’s facility in Phoenix for great lengths of time (over a year) didn’t make it as guide dogs and got turned over to the Maricopa Sheriff’s department Canine Unit. EDF Ex. Director Gwen Brown promised the puppy raisers that that would NEVER HAPPEN! She gave them a verbal agreement that if EDF didn’t train these dogs to be guide dogs, the raisers would get first right of refusal!!!

    Then explain why three EDF dogs got turned over to the Maricopa Sheriff’s department (Canine Unit)? Two of those dogs failed becoming police dogs and now are being raised as pets in officer’s homes!!! Ms. Brown lied to the puppy raisers and to the Sheriff’s office. They have unknowingly been dragged into this whole mess. Trying to keep the dogs from their rightful owners is a way to keep everyone guessing as to how many dogs EDF legitimately places with the blind. If no one knows the correct answer on that, EDF can keep on pretending to be a foundation with the blind’s best interest at heart but the opposite is true. Read the comment from Mardi Hadfield posted above and you can see, that she hasn’t had any calls returned to her in “forever.” WHAT IS WRONG HERE????

    I am calling the State Attorney’s Office on Monday. I am calling the National Federation for the blind as well! When a member of their own community is struggling to get a dog from a foundation that isn’t even returning calls …COME ON!!!!! What good is a National Federation if it can’t be the “watch dog” over what shouldn’t be happening to those it is committed to serve. EDF certainly has gone wayward…Now the question is “who is going to do something about it?” Shame on all of you for sitting on your behinds and watching “volunteers” do all your work!!!!!'”

  10. Does anyone have any more information on EDF? I can provide some not mentioned in your article or the comments – my “puppy” (almost 3), Noni, was placed with a blind individual in October 2009. I have been in contact with that person and respect their privacy, but Noni is doing well, probably because she has an experienced handler. A few months later, early 2010, another puppy-raiser was informed her dog was placed, but was refused any further information or verification.
    The court case ended in mid-June 2010 after the judge wrote a favourable (to puppy-raisers) opinion, but these had just been evidentiary hearings. However the EDF lawyer requested to be removed from the case due to lack of cooperation and non-payment from EDF, esp. Ms Gwen Brown, which was granted and since EDF did not show up with another lawyer within the granted time, the lawsuit was closed.
    At the time there was a litter of puppies and I don’t know anything about them. I also don’t know what the staff situation is or if EDF is still operating according to CA state requirements. I think about Noni every October and sent an anniversary email to her handler, and that has prompted me to ask for additional information. Noni was the fifth service puppy I had raised, the only one from EDF and that experience was so bad, I don’t think I’ll raise another one.

  11. Hi, Mardi Hadfield here, I finally got my dog. I got him from a person who rescued him from a shelter. He is a Belgian Shepherd and I had him trained by a private trainer, after I socialized him and taught him obedience and house manners. His name is Shaman and he has become a wonderful guide dog. He guides me from a wheelchair as I have other disabilities as well as blindness. I have learned that EDF did place a dog as a guide some time in 2011. I do not know who got this dog but I heard that it was poorly trained and I also heard that another student was denied his dog after going through training. The student was locked out of the school and had to wait in the hot summer heat to get a ride home,without his dog. As far as I know, these are the only students that EDF has worked with in some time. This information came from the NAGDU list. Many people including my self and the NAGDU President,Marion Gwizdala, Have been working to get this situation taken care of. Both the California and Arizona Attorney Generals have done nothing to shut down this fraudulent charity. I feel so sorry for the dogs that remain locked up in kennels at this school. I also sympathize with the puppy raisers that worked so hard to raise these dogs to become guides. At least they knew they were loved when they were with them. The puppy raisers deserve to have these dogs back as they are not being given to the blind people who need them.

  12. I am wondering if there is any new information regarding this school and if this situation has ever been rectified to the benefit of the dogs and the students.
    Thank you

    • I have heard a few things here and there over the years that I’m not sure I can disclose publicly. However, I’ve contacted a few people and I’ll see if I can’t piece together a proper update to share. It certainly has been a long time coming!

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