APEX, NC (WNCN / WBTW) – A support dog can change the lives of children with special needs, and that's what parents were hoping for when they spent a lot of money. Money to buy a service dog from a nonprofit organization Apex, but some parents claim what they were a dog was not trained and, in some cases, aggressive.
A mother from North Carolina said that her 11-year-old daughter, who has autism, was no longer the same since they bought an assistance dog at Apex, a non-profit organization, Ry-Con.
"She can barely see the sun," said Rachel Cummings. "She is not herself. I have not hugged since Mother's Day 2017. That's what we did to our family. "
Ry-Con Service Dogs is owned by Mark Mathis.
He says he has a son on the autism spectrum and thinks training a help dog could be a way to help him and he was right.
"The parents did not stop to approach and asked us if we could make a dog for them, then another dog, and then it became obvious that there was no dog there. "A need and a real catharsis to interact with families who are in the same place as you," Mathis told News13's sister station, WNCN / CBS17, in 2017.
Nearly two years later, Ry-Con closed, after dozens of parents filed complaints with the Attorney General's office and even sued Mathis. Rachel Cummings spent thousands of dollars on one of these dogs for her daughter. She says that it was completely untrained.
"She did not always sit when I told her to sit down," Cummings said. "She would not have gone to bed when you told her to go to bed. Maybe the third, fourth or fifth time if you pulled on a leash, she would get it and go to bed, but she would take it to other dogs in public, in PetSmart. "
Cummings says the assistance dog attacked their family's dog in front of their daughter, traumatizing her. Cummings returned the dog and asked for a refund. She says Mathis has refused.
"The damage, grief and trauma suffered by these families is not about losing a puppy," Cummings said. "It's not about making hope a cute dog. It's about selling you hope. It's about believing that your life can be better and spend a year when your 10-year-old sleeps every night with a picture of that hope sitting next to your bed and holding her by saying : 'There are only six months left I'm getting my dog's assistance. This means that in six months I will have friends, which means that in six months, my life will be better than today. I can get there, and then everything goes down. "
Christian Poirier's son, Daniel, is also 11 years old. He is autistic and non verbal.
"We have started looking for an assistance dog for him because he is growing up and faster and I am getting older and I am slower and it is more difficult to follow him," he said. declared Poirier. "We were hoping to have an assistance dog to control him when he would face dangerous situations."
Poirier paid $ 2,500 to Ry-Con for the dog and $ 11,000 more for training.
"We were waiting for a trained dog and we got an aggressive dog," said Poirier. "A dog that started fighting with our other dogs and finally bit my son and none of that looks like an assistance dog."
Once the dog attacked his son, Poirier returned him to Mathis and asked for a full refund. He says that Mathis refused. So he took her to Small Claims Court and won her case, but Mathis appealed and then filed for bankruptcy, putting a freeze on all the small claims lawsuits against him.
"I believe that there will be justice for all this," said Poirier. "I do not think he's going to make it. It's the light of day now. He can not continue to hide from that. "
Kelly Kennedy of CBS 17 went to Mathis, but he refused to comment on the charges against him.
CBS 17 learned that 41 families across the country had lodged a complaint with the Attorney General's office. Families claiming to have paid thousands of dollars for poorly trained dogs. Some families even claim to have paid more than $ 13,000 for an assistance dog and have never received it.
"You can imagine a parent, many of them have limited means and have an autistic child that they are desperately trying to help this child develop," said Attorney General Josh Stein. "So they sell a bill, $ 14.15 million that this dog will transform the life of their child and he does not do it. It's not trained at home. It is not an animal trained. It's cruel. If these allegations prove correct, we will do everything in our power to hold this guy accountable. "
Stein said that criminal and civil penalties could be possible in this case.
"There is a criminal law to obtain property under false pretenses," Stein said. "If they knew that they were involved in criminal frauds, then yes, it's a crime." We have another law, the Unfair Unfair Commercial Practices Act, which I have enforced and which ensures that a company does not cheat the fool, does unfair practices and if they did, we can hold them responsible. "
Stein says the investigation is ongoing and he encourages all other families who think they are victims to call his office.