Controversy surrounding services provided by Service Dogs Europe

image taken from the SDE Facebook page

Dundalk Ireland – Service Dogs Europe (SDE) provide Service Dogs for children and adults with a wide range of disabilities and additional needs. One such service is that of an Autism Assistance Dog. The information stated on their website about this service reads as follows:

Service Dogs Europe, Autism Service Dog Program focuses on improving the quality of life for families of children/adults living with Autism. Unlike оthеr organisations wе dо nоt place an upper age limit on thоѕе wanting а service dog. Our highly skilled Autism Service Dogs offer families thrее key advantages – safety, comfort and inclusion. Thіѕ іѕ achieved bу providing а fully trained dog аnd providing training and support to the parents аnd уоur son оr daughter.

Under the Equality Act 2010 Service Dogs provided by Service Dogs Europe are allowed the same public access rights as those provided by the ADI/ADEu/ADUK or any of their members. Please Feel Free To Read The 2010 Equality Act’.

CEO of Service Dogs Europe, Henry Fitzsimons, states on the website:

Hello. My name is Henry Fitzsimons and i am a dog trainer with 25+ years experience having traveled the world training dogs. I am also a father who has two son’s on the Autism Spectrum.

I was contacted by parents asking me to train their own dog or if I could find them a suitable puppy, as they could not wait the 3-5 years they had been told by various charities.

Most parents said that they would not be able to go fundraising every weekend due to time restraints and the time it takes to look after their children.

I knew I could make a difference so I dreamt of a place where parents did not have to wait 3-5 years to receive their service dog, or had to spend their limited time fundraising at weekends but instead a place that

  1. Understood what it is like being a parent of a Special Needs Child.
  2. Done everything possible to help those in need of a service dog receive one in the quickest time at the lowest cost.
  3. Offered training carried out by full time professional dog trainers.
  4. A place that gives full back up support for the lifetime of the service dog.

Under the Equality Act 2010 Service Dogs provided by Service Dogs Europe are allowed the same public access rights as those provided by the ADI/ADEu/ADUK or any of their members. Please Feel Free To Read The 2010 Equality Act.’

 However there is much controversy surrounding the service that this Irish based provider of service dogs provide. Tracey Pritchard who is a single mother to a young man with Asperger’s syndrome, Type 1 diabetes and asthma got in touch with us to tell us of how she wished she had never bought a service dog from SDE. Originally she had been on a waiting list to receive a dog from the charity Medical Detection Dogs (a member of ADUK) but unfortunately they were not successful as they were concerned about her son’s autism. This was when, after researching and reading stories about SDE, that she decided to contact them in order to join the puppy program.

“I was put at ease by the ‘ADI standards’ of training, public access rights, Guide Dog logos and reassuring phone calls.”

Tracey funded the overall cost of buying the dog on a mortgage overdraft and by selling her personal possessions on eBay, “with the understanding that the 23% VAT charged on our dog would be refunded later.”

She signed the contract on August 2, 2014 and took delivery of a black Labrador named Welka, on January 19, 2015.

Tracey told us:

‘When we took the pup for a vet check two days later, she found a couple of medical problems which I informed Service Dogs Europe of, namely a hernia and dental issues. As time went on he needed anesthesia for dental surgery, antibiotics for systemic infections which left him listless, treatment for recurring eye infections and months of pain medication for lameness.”

They were also advised to limit exercise which in turn limited his socialization, training and ability to accompany her son. Tracey told us that Welka is not “physically fit enough to be a service dog at this point” and that “he has been diagnosed with dysplasia in all limbs and will require surgery costing thousands.”

Tracey soon heard similar stories from others who had accessed ADE and started to investigate. She discovered that Welka was brought into the UK via a bogus mailing address in Northern Ireland in order to avoid the legally required pet passport and rabies vaccine.

“He was not wormed and his microchip had not been registered to SDE. I have confirmed this with the vet at Healthy Pets in Dundalk where SDE took the pups, with DEFRA in the UK, Animark who register the microchips and whose Northern Ireland warehouse address is being used without their knowledge.  I have also confirmed that Service Dogs Europe do not have a breeding program, their dogs are sourced online and from local rescues, the puppies are not tested for health or temperament.”

Tracey also confirmed that SDE are not associated with ADI (Assistance Dogs International) or the Guide Dogs of America, despite the company using their logo.

“They are also misrepresenting themselves as a charity on the website and on their own webpages under the ‘fundraisers’ button where there are dozens of customers talking about the ‘Service Dogs Europe charity’.”

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About Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.