Written By: Ryan Kocian
AUSTIN, Texas (CN) – An alleged nonprofit in Texas charged up to $15,000 for diabetic alert dogs that were not trained or never delivered, 18 customers claim in court.
Sahayonara Carachure et al. sued Jasper, Texas-based Drey’s Dream Team dba Drey’s Alert Dogs, and its owners Roann Pearson and Timothy Pearson on July 23 in Travis County Court.
Carachure and the 11 other plaintiff-families all suffer from Type I diabetes or have family members with the disease. Diabetics must monitor their blood glucose levels, which can fluctuate rapidly, inducing blackouts, seizures and coma.
Diabetic alert dogs can smell the fluctuation in blood sugar levels and warn the owner of an impending crisis.
Drey’s Alert Dogs sells its alert dogs for $9,000 to $15,000 apiece, according to the complaint.
Carachure, a single mom, says the Pearsons charged her $15,000 for a dog. She raised the money with help from friends and family and community members, including “many people who had never even met the Carachures,” she says in the complaint.
After paying $150 for a “scent kit” supposed to imprint her scent upon a puppy named Hero, Drey’s told her the dog had hip problems and it would send her another dog. But the dog was not trained to help her, Carachure says.
“Hero does not alert when Ms. Carachure’s glucose levels drop. He is terrified to be in public. And he has been diagnosed with a genetic disorder, patellar luxation, causing him severe pain in his knees. Certified service dog trainers have told the Carachures that Hero is untrained and does not have the temperament to work as a service dog. The Carachures had no choice but to ‘retire’ Hero as a diabetic alert dog,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say they had similar problems, and that “what is even more disturbing are the stories of families who paid the defendants for dogs which they never received.”
Stefanie Huff says her family paid $30,000 for two diabetic alert dogs because her 7-year-old twin sons both have diabetes. They never got a dog, Huff says.
Plaintiff Ashley Kinstler told Courthouse News she paid $15,000 for a diabetic alert dog named Keona.
When asked if Keona could perform the lifesaving services as Drey’s Alert Dogs represented, Kinstler said: “Not at all. She had two good alerts which I now understand was chance because she alerts for anything she wants. Drey’s blamed her misbehavior on me even though I had only had Keona for not even 24 hours. They offered to let me keep Keona as a pet after she was retired and refund me, but after promising a payment in December 2014 I have never heard from her since.”
As to whether she believed she was the victim of a scam, Kinstler said, “I feel she (owner Roann Pearson) intentionally preyed upon people with disabilities so that she could spoil herself with a lavish lifestyle. I feel I have been taken advantage of.”
“Even though this is a bad experience, I still believe 100% that working diabetic alert dogs exist and hope to have one some day. I have seen good companies out there,” Kinstler added.
In a July 17 court hearing, Drey’s Alert Dogs gave up possession of 16 dogs to the City of Jasper, Texas. City officials had seized the dogs when police were called to the Pearsons’ home to check on the dogs, according to KJAS radio. Police found the dogs abandoned in kennels and living in their own feces. They were turned over to animal rescue officials and are receiving veterinary care.
Drey’s Alert Dogs did not reply to messages requesting comment, and its website no longer works.
The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for fraud, theft, money had and received, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
They are represented by Joshua Davis and Katherine Ray in Houston.