Virginia is taking aim at a company that sells diabetic alert dogs.
A new lawsuit claims that dogs meant to help save lives could be putting lives at risk.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Virginia) announced he’s suing Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers (SDWR) out of Madison County and its CEO, Charles D. Warren, Jr.
“This is something we’ve been looking at for a long time,” he said.
The suit, which was filed in Madison County Circuit Court, alleges SDWR charged $18,000 to $27,000 for dogs that are supposed to identify and alert people to life-threatening low and high blood sugar in individuals with diabetes.
But the complaint said, in reality, the dogs were often poorly trained, ill-behaved and unequipped to help manage a life-threatening situation.
“Imagine if you are a parent with a child who suffers from diabetes. You think, this is a great way to help protect my child. You save up money, pay tens of thousands of dollars thinking this dog will help protect your son or your daughter and in fact it’s a pet that can’t detect blood sugar levels at all,” said Herring.
Herring said his office has received complaints about SDWR from more than 50 people across the country.
“We want to stop other people from being potentially victimized by this company,” he said.
Herring is seeking restitution for those affected.
He also alleges the company encouraged customers to solicit charitable donations to cover the cost of their dog, despite several times not being properly registered to solicit charitable funds. The complaint requests any unlawful solicitations be given to an appropriate charitable organization.
“What we want to do is make sure that people who’ve been victimized get their money back and that other people aren’t taken advantage of and that their lives are not put in jeopardy by thinking they’ve got a dog that can help protect them in an emergency,” said Herring.
But the company on the opposite end of the lawsuit is hitting back.
An attorney for SDWR disputes the attorney general’s claims.
John B. Russell said his team has not yet reviewed the lawsuit, but refute any wrongdoing.
“We absolutely deny that we have ever set out to mislead, cheat or defraud our many happy clients,” Russell said in a statement.
He said SDWR has been working with the attorney general’s office to address areas of concern.
Full response from SDWR’s attorney, John B. Russell, Esq.
“We have not yet seen the Attorney General’s lawsuit, but we deny any allegation of wrongdoing and we absolutely deny that we have ever set out to mislead, cheat or defraud our many happy clients. Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers has a long history of serving people with invisible disabilities, including many people with Type I Diabetes. This long history of service includes being a recipient of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s “Spotlight” Award in 2017.
We have been working with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office to address any areas of concern they may have. In many areas, we had already changed our procedures long before their investigation began. The Attorney General’s Office, however, made it clear that they only wanted the complete destruction of SDWR and Dan Warren. Over the last 8 months, Mr. Warren has suffered a series of debilitating brain injuries. His doctors indicated that the severe stress he was under certainly contributed to these brain injuries. This stress included the Attorney General’s investigation. Dan is working hard at rehab. The Attorney General’s Office has been aware of his condition for many months. I am personally very disappointed that an agency as important and powerful as the Attorney General’s Office would allow itself to wage such a personal campaign against a company that has done so much good and to take such an action while knowing the delicate medical condition of Mr. Warren and the possible effects this action could have.
We will review the lawsuit when we receive it, and we promise to fight these ridiculous allegations at every step. We ask that all of our loyal clients who are all fighting their own battles against invisible disabilities know that we continue to work with them and support their efforts in training and improving the performance of their support dogs.”