After being investigated for years, a service dog scammer will now pay restitution as ordered by the state.
“Thursday, Attorney General Mark Herring announced that the owner of Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers in Madison County will be held accountable for selling unqualified service dogs across the country,”
The group has previously delivered service dogs, which are to be trained by Virginia Tech students.
“This alleged fraud isn’t just an egregious business practice. People put their health at risk because the representations made by this enterprise were so compelling,” Attorney General Mark Herring told reporters.
The owner of the company will also be banned from operating any charitable organizations and training, breeding, or selling any more companion animals.
According to state officials, the defendant was ordered to repay over $267,000 in restitution and service dog fees already paid by customers.
“Shutting down this fraudulent organization will protect Virginians who rely on specially trained dogs for their independence and safety,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “I applaud Attorney General Herring for his work on this important issue.”
“In 2015, the AG’s office received a tip that Warren Retrievers was violating Virginia laws by soliciting donations and providing inadequate training to prospective service dog owners. The AG’s Charitable Trust Section opened an investigation.”
The investigation found that Warren Retrievers, which claimed to have trained and raised dogs for use by disabled veterans and other clients, had trained the dogs with patently insufficient training material and methods.
The AG’s office also discovered that Warren Retrievers had provided little socialization for the dogs it sold.
In addition to the poor training, Virginia law requires service dog owners have access to a trainer at all times should they need help with their animals.
Officials say such access was not possible, as the dogs were distributed across the country to clients.
“The defendants also provided scant follow-up support for customers,” officials concluded. “Many potential owners had difficulty accessing trainers to remedy behavior issues which arose after purchase.”
In addition, it was revealed that Warren Retrievers did not undergo the rigorous evaluations required by the state to provide training for service dogs.
The investigation also found that much of the money donated and paid by people who purchased dogs were used to cover administrative expenses, with a little leftover for dog care or training.
The problem is that many service dog owners are not being held accountable for their responsibilities and often the dogs who need these animals most don’t have the resources to fight back or provide a quality life for themselves.
Service animal fraud has become an epidemic in recent years, with more people looking to profit off of this growing population.
It’s time we start holding those responsible accountable so others can live without worry about how they will cover expenses like veterinary care when needed.