A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a woman I know of who made the difficult decision to return her service dog to the program she got him from because he had severe skin allergies. She had the dog for about a year and spent hundreds of dollars, which she could ill afford, taking him to specialists for treatment. She was advised by a veterinary specialist at a university veterinary hospital that he should not be a working dog because working exposes him to more allergens and makes his condition worse. She loves this dog deeply and was heartbroken at having to return him, but felt it was the best thing for him.
The program she got him from promises that if a dog must be retired due to health problems, they will find him a good home where he will be a family pet and will get the medical care he needs. Last week, she put him on an airplane with a volunteer to deliver him back to this program in another state. Then she went home to her empty apartment and cried.
She's since heard from someone with the program and he has arrived safely. However, she is deeply disturbed, as am I at what they are now telling her. They are now telling her that they will be keeping him in their kennel, where they keep the dogs they are training, for four to six months, then placing him with another person with a disability in need of a service dog. This is disturbing for a number of reasons. First, this dog is used to living in a house with people. Now he's going to be in a kennel for up to six months. How sad is that for the dog? Second, a highly qualified veterinary specialist has said he is not healthy enough to work, that it exposes him to additional allergens and makes him sicker. So his condition will continue to worsen. Third, another person with a disability will end up struggling to pay for his medical bills and will probably end up having to make the same heartbreaking decision this other woman had to make.
And I feel terrible for this woman, who loved her dog so much she made the decision to let him go because she believed it was what would be best for him, who now learns the program is not going to find him a good home where he can be a much loved pet after all but is planning to have him continue working despite his health problems. She's probably questioning her decision and second guessing herself right now, which is sad because she did everything she possibly could for her dog.
I'm not going to name the service dog program here because I am a bit concerned about liability issues, but if anyone is considering getting a service dog and wants to be sure to avoid this program, feel free to email me at poet_kelly at yahoo dot com. I would definitely want to avoid them and I'll be happy to share the info with you.