Attorney John B. Russell, Jr. is defending an entity called "Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers, Inc." which is being sued for selling completely untrained 3-month-old Labrador Retriever puppies as highly trained service dogs and charging $18,000 to $27,000 per pup.
Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers claims it is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and says it provides service dogs for people suffering from autism, diabetes, PTSD, and seizure disorders.
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring says, in fact, the dogs are little more than "incredibly expensive pets" and that the pups are not even able to walk on leashes, let alone perform any specialized tasks.
Customers who bought the dogs complained there was no support when they asked for the promised “scent training” or raised issues about behavior. The dogs are supposed to stay calm around noises or people, but instead whined, jumped, got scared, and otherwise acted like totally untrained puppies.
Some 50 customers have complained about the alleged scam and Herring said “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.”
Owner Charles D. Warren Jr. is also accused of encouraging customers to solicit charitable donations for the dogs, and of lying about his military background. Warren says he served in the Marines and trained military dogs, a contention the Commonwealth of Virginia challenges. Warren also suggest his program is affiliated with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation which is not true.
The lawsuit, filed in Madison County Circuit Court, seeks restitution on behalf of affected consumers, civil penalties of $2,500 to $5,000 per violation, attorneys’ fees, and asks the court to block Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers from further violations of Virginia's Consumer Protection Act and Solicitation of Contributions law.