Assistance dog controversy: 'We do not recommend dog company', ISPCA

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has hit out at the training methods used by Service Dogs Ireland and said it would not recommend the services of this company “to anyone”.
Assistance dog controversy: 'We do not recommend dog company', ISPCA

The organisation confirmed that, along with the Department of Agriculture and local authorities, it is investigating Service Dogs Europe.

“I can confirm we carried out an unannounced inspection of the premises on September 24. We are still investigating so I can’t go into too much detail, but I can say that we wouldn’t recommend Service Dogs Europe to anyone,” said Andrew Kelly, the chief executive of the ISPCA.

“There have been allegations of cruelty, and I can say that because it’s in the public domain, those allegations, but, again, I can’t go into too much detail.”

He said regardless of these allegations, which are still being looked into, the training methods used by Service Dogs Europe are not good enough to result in a fully trained assistance dog.

“Any training should involve the owner. You can’t expect to send a dog off for a few weeks and have it come back trained. It’s ridiculous. We wouldn’t recommend that type of regime at all.

“If you look at charities, they train the dogs for a lot longer. The dogs they train are also a lot older. A 13-week-old puppy is not an assistance dog.”

Mr Kelly said the reason waiting lists for charities that provided assistance dogs are sometimes five, six, and seven years long is because they train the dogs to the required standard.

“With Service Dogs Europe, essentially what you’re getting is a well-trained pet, not an assistance dog.”

Mr Kelly also said the fact that Service Dogs Europe claims to train their dogs to Assistance Dogs International (ADI) standards, despite not being an accredited member of this organisation, is “misleading”.

“They say they work to ADI standards but they are not an accredited member of the ADI. So that statement is clearly misleading. We would urge people to go to a place that comes up to the standards of a governing body,” he said.

Marianne Slingerland, accreditation co-ordinator for Assistance Dogs Europe (ADEu), a standard-setting body, confirmed that Service Dogs Europe was not accredited by them.

“Service Dogs Europe is neither a candidate nor an accredited member of ADEu/ADI although we were informed that they pretend to work according to ADI standards,” she said.

“As Service Dogs Europe is not an accredited ADI/ADEu member we have no standing to intervene.”

What’s been said about the assistance dog controversy

“I didn’t know anything

about service dogs. I put my

trust in these people. In

hindsight, I was very naive.”

— Susan Dempsey

“There was no help given,

no advice given prior to

brining the dog back home to

my son or what to do, nothing

else. He was just handed back

over to me, a matted, faeces

covered ball of fur, shaking

with fear.”

— Grainne Finucane

“We basically paid £7,500

[€10,200)] for what is a pet

dog. — Charlie Morris

“I have to go to a solicitor

now if I want my money back.”

Melissa Murphy

“When I tried to get a hold of

Henry [Fitzsimons] or Michael

[Henry] over email they never

got back to me. They

completely ignored us.

Nobody’s answering the

phone, so we’re seeking legal

advice now.” — Kay Lythaby

“Personally I know of at

least 15 people affected.

We’re all seeking legal advice

together. A lot of people are

afraid to come forward and

speak out about what’s happening. It’s killing me, knowing what’s going on.”— Gillian O’Brien Murray

“They refused to give us any

of our money back or let us

leave the programme. We

could leave the programme

but they would keep our

money.” — Amy Brosnan

“My child has autism

and he [Henry Fitzsimons]

guaranteed that a dog who

turn my child’s life around. But

the dog I got, she’s not a

service dog. I can’t even say

that she’s a well trained dog.”

— Tanya Fletcher

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