Virginia AG files suit against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers
Release from the office of (VIRGINIA) Attorney General Mark Herring:
RICHMOND (May 8, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that he has filed a lawsuit against Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, Inc., a Virginia-based company that sells purported service dogs to consumers nationwide, and its CEO, Charles D. Warren, Jr., for alleged violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions law.
The suit alleges that Service Dogs and Warren sold so-called “diabetic alert dogs” for tens of thousands of dollars, when they were often delivering poorly-trained puppies with significant behavioral issues and inadequate skills or training to notify a customer of a potentially life-threatening high or low blood sugar situation. Service Dogs and Warren also misled customers and charitable donors about certain aspects of the business’s payment structure, and lied about Warren having served in the armed forces.
“This suit alleges not just dishonest and unlawful business practices, but a recklessness that could have endangered the lives of customers who relied on the claims made by Service Dogs and its owner,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Our investigation shows that, in many instances, Service Dogs was simply selling a $25,000 pet, leaving customers with a huge bill and no protection against a potentially life-threatening blood sugar situation. Customers have a right to rely on the accuracy of a business’s claims, especially when it involves a person’s health and well-being. We will continue to hold businesses to the highest standards and take action whenever necessary to protect Virginia consumers.”
The lawsuit alleges that Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers and Mr. Warren charged $18,000 to $27,000 for a dog that could purportedly identify and alert individuals to life-threatening low and high blood sugar in individuals with diabetes. In reality, the dogs were often poorly trained, ill-behaved, and unequipped to help manage a life-threatening situation, rendering them little more than incredibly expensive pets.
An investigation of customer complaints showed that, instead of the well-trained service dog that was promised, Service Dogs often provided an untrained puppy that showed significant shortcomings such as an inability to properly walk on a leash, inappropriate chewing and destruction, inability to respond when called, jumping on people, fear of noises, and frequent barking or whining. Critically, dogs that were billed as a potential lifesaver failed to alert customers to dangerous high or low blood sugar.
The complaint also alleges that Service Dogs encouraged customers to solicit charitable donations to cover the cost of their dog despite several times not being properly registered to solicit charitable funds, and misled customers about a partnership with or endorsement from JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Finally, the suit alleges that Mr. Warren lied to customers and donors when he claimed to have served in the United States Marine Corps, to have trained dogs for the military, and to have received a medical discharge because of a diabetes diagnosis. In reality, Mr. Warren has never served in the United States Marine Corps or any other branch of the military.
Attorney General Herring specifically contends that Service Dogs and Mr. Warren violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the Virginia Solicitation of Contributions law by, among other ways, deceiving consumers about:
- the testing and training dogs would undergo before being placed in a home with the diabetic person;
- the skills and abilities dogs would have when assisting a consumer or family member with diabetes;
- how the dogs could be paid for, and how long consumers would have to pay their balances; and
- why consumers—or those who donated on their behalf—could not receive refunds.
In his lawsuit filed in Madison County Circuit Court, Attorney General Herring is seeking restitution on behalf of affected consumers, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and asking the court to block Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers from further violations of the Consumer Protection Act and Solicitation of Contributions law. He is seeking civil penalties of up to $2,500 per willful violation of the Consumer Protection Act and $5,000 per violation of the Solicitation of Contributions law, with the exact number of violations to be determined during trial proceedings. In addition, Attorney General Herring is seeking an accounting from the company of all funds obtained through unlawful solicitations, and the establishment of a charitable trust so those funds can be provided to an appropriate charitable organization.
During the course of investigating complaints against Service Dogs, Attorney General Herring had to ask a court to enforce a civil investigative demand compelling the company to produce information about its business. The company failed to fully comply with the civil investigative demand for nearly two years, resulting in approximately $90,000 in sanctions against Service Dogs and Warren.
Consumers who believe they have been injured by Service Dogs should file a complaint with Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section as soon as possible. For information about filing a complaint, to get a complaint form, or to submit a complaint online, consumers should go to the Attorney General’s website: Online Complaint Form. Consumers with questions or who need assistance can contact us:
Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section is handling this matter. During Attorney General Herring’s administration, the Consumer Protection Section has undergone a significant reorganization and expansion, and recovered more than $243 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators.
If you have any consumer-related inquiries, the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline telephone counselors are available to assist you with your consumer questions. Please call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963 if calling from Virginia, or (804) 786-2042 if calling from the Richmond area. You can also subscribe to the Consumer Protection Quarterly Newsletter here.
Madison County (Virginia) based service dog training center under scrutiny
From NBC29.com :
Difficult questions are being asked about a Madison County based service dog training center. Some of the questions come from customers, and others come from state investigators.
Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers is coming under fire after the Virginia Attorney General’s Office received 36 complaints against it. Now, the owner, Dan Warren, has to pay over $60,000 in fines.
The pups are supposed to provide aid for those with diabetes, autism, PTSD, and seizure disorders; but people who have dealt with the company say they aren’t pleased.
Melinda Colon was supposed to get a service dog from the company. She says she chose to opt out because of a 30-page contract that was not provided to her prior to delivery. She says the dogs are not properly trained.
“I started telling them ‘listen, this is not right. There’s something wrong here, these are not alerts.’ Dogs, little puppies scratching on the floor and whining and running to the door and doing all these, these are not trained alerts,” said Colon.
After her experience she made the Facebook page named ‘Stop the Scammers’ to alert others to what was going on in the organization and others like it. “He’s charging $3,500 for untrained dogs, he’s calling them service dogs and they’re not, they’re just very expensive pets,” she said.
The dogs are trained to alert or tell a diabetic or family member, when the diabetic’s blood sugar is too low or high. Jennifer Bolden got her dog from Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers to help with her daughter’s type 1 diabetes. She says the company said the training would only take 15 minutes a day, but it took much longer.
“We felt lied to, taking care of diabetes is a lot of work and this was supposed to make things easier,” Bolden said. “We were told all of the training would be done upfront and we just have to do the reinforcement training, we just felt lied to.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has received 36 complaints about the company’s dogs. Authorities attempted to investigate the legitimacy of these complaints with Civil Investigative Demands to the company.
A Richmond judge ordered Dan Warren to pay $68,000 dollars in fines and $12,000 in attorney fees for failing to comply with the commonwealth’s demands for information. The fees against Warren will continue to add up at $250 per day until he responds to the court.
Warren’s attorney, John B. Russell, Jr., says the company has served thousands of other satisfied customers. “They have 36 complaints out of 1,000 clients and there are approximately 500 dogs that are out there working and doing great every day for very satisfied clients.”