Arkansas has one of the highest per-capita veteran populations with an estimated 2,500 Arkansans in need of service dogs.
As of now there’s no regulation when it comes to trainers, and no regulated certification for service dog teams.
KNWA News investigated how many inadequately trained dogs still carry the honored title.
In Fayetteville, Soldier on Service Dogs was recently accused of mistreatment and selling donated dogs.
“I mean I donated these dogs for free and I know that they took a donation or they sold the pups,” animal breeder Rick Dodson said.
Dodson works in Tennessee, and donated five full-blooded German Shepherd pups valued at $1,500 a piece to Fayetteville’s Soldier on Service Dogs non-profit, run by Angie Pratt.
After ten months of K-9 training with volunteer puppy handlers and trainers, the non-profit washed out all five dogs, meaning they were unfit to serve a veteran.
“I even contacted Angie you know wanting my dogs, I thought hey if they’re going to wash out I want my dogs back and they said well we’ll contact back with you and I never heard nothing,” Dodson said.
It isn’t just Dodson who couldn’t get the dogs back, the puppy raisers were told they couldn’t take back the dogs as well due to a contractual obligation.
So we went looking for answers at the non-profit.
We went looking for Angie Pratt with Soldier on Service Dogs for their response to the accusations of selling donated dogs for profit.
“Well let’s see I don’t know how to phrase it nicely, politely, um that’s incorrect, how about that? We don’t sell dogs here, we bring dogs in, and we do in fact release them when they don’t fit our needs, and yes we do ask for a donation but we do not make that a prerequisite, we waive that fee regularly,” Pratt said.
Pratt said they did not return the animals to the breeder because Dodson had already taken a tax deduction for the dogs.
Kelsey Smith was a puppy raiser and said after a long process she was able to pay an adoption fee of $250 to get Annie back, thanks in large part to social media.
According to Pratt, Smith has an axe to grind against the organization.
“I’m actually thrilled that you all are here, because this is giving us an opportunity to say no, this is not the truth,” Pratt said.
Soldier on Service Dogs said they did not want to release the dog back into Smith’s care because she wanted to send the animal to a veteran in Rhode Island.
But when Smith was finally reunited with Annie three months later, she was shocked by what she found.
“When I went to pick her up though the condition that she was in was terrible, she lost 10 percent of her body weight. I did take her to the veterinarian, after I got her the first thing I knew I needed to get her checked up because she was not in the condition that I gave her back, she was healthy and brilliant and when I called her name for her to come and greet me she didn’t even know her name,” Smith said.
Soldier on Service Dogs said the reason Annie was underweight was because she was not properly kennel trained, which caused excessive stress and weight loss.
“The idea that we would put a dog into a situation that may be harmful to the dog, well it isn’t going happen and if I may, the other aspect of this is we washed the dog out because it was fearful and anxious. You can’t give a fearful and anxious dog to a veteran who suffers from PTSD, who as part of his symptoms has fear and anxiety.”
We obtained the conditions check from Fayetteville Animal Services.
The organization found no signs of mistreatment, but determined Annie needed to be fed one more cup per day.