A prominent Las Vegas-based company that sells diabetic service dogs across the country acknowledges it has experienced “growing pains” after a handful of publicized customer complaints.
Diabetic Alert Dogs of America uses independent contractors in Nevada and Arizona to raise and train dogs that sell for as much as $15,000 through its website.
Three families publicly accused the company of deceitful practices and a Facebook page featured other customer concerns about the dogs they had received from the company. The complaints range from dogs that don’t alert properly of a diabetic emergency to dogs that misbehave in public and at home.
Diabetic Alert Dogs of America promises customers well-behaved service dogs that alert Type 1 diabetic owners when their blood sugar is too low or too high. The company does not offer refunds but instead offers a “lifetime training guarantee” for customers who are not satisfied. Typically, those customers would have the responsibility to bring their dog back to Nevada or Arizona for re-training.
12 News reached out to Ed Peeples, director of business operations for the company. He referred 12 News to Gilbert-based dog trainer Josh Peeples for an interview. Josh Peeples is one of more than 30 trainers contracted with the company and is Ed’s brother.
“We’re here for that lifetime training guarantee and I think that’s the biggest thing we can offer is that you can come back,” Josh Peeples said. “It can be a client’s fault, it can be the dog’s fault and of course it could even be our fault. But bring it back to us and we can get that re-training done for you.”
When asked whether there is a quality control problem with the dogs delivered by the company, Peeples said there is room for improvement.
“Definitely it would be a challenge in the company as you grow,” Peeples said. “Just like any company you have you bring on more employees, contractors. So quality control is something we definitely are working on and improving.”
The trainers are independent contractors who receive guidance from Ed Peeples on what standards must be reached in order for a dog to be ready for sale, Josh Peeples said. Josh said he and his wife train an average of 12 dogs per year to be sold and currently have four dogs and a puppy in their home that are being trained.
“We put everything into it basically to get that dog ready and perfect,” Josh Peeples said.
The company’s website claims every dog gets over 1,500 hours of “intense service dog training” before it is sold and has delivered hundreds of dogs to satisfied customers.
“We have definitely experienced growing pains as we’ve grown,” Josh Peeples said, in reference to questions about whether there is inconsistency among trainers.
Josh Peeples acknowledged that training can vary from one contractor to another.
“Different trainers will have different opinions just like any business with different employees and contractors. But Las Vegas will set that standard for me and they will test that dog, and determine if he’s ready to go,” Josh Peeples said.
The company’s director of dog training is Gracie Wilkerson. She raises dogs out of her Buckeye home and travels to Las Vegas to work with the company’s other trainers. Wilkerson told 12 News she believes dogs should be at least 18 months old before they are considered to have “a solid foundation” as a Diabetic alert dog ready for sale.
Josh Peeples said his threshold for readiness can be as young as one year.
“My opinion is that I don’t think it is too soon, the dogs I am placing. The dog that is ready to go at that 12-month mark,” Josh Peeples said.
During the interview, Josh was working with a former customer, Mike Greene. The Type 1 diabetic patient traveled from his San Diego home to Gilbert for a couple days to have his dog Patch receive extra training from Josh. Patch was having problems in crowds and was not consistently alerting Mike of high blood sugar levels. Mike sent the dog a couple weeks prior to his arrival so the dog could receive one-on-one training from Josh.
“Everything the company said they would do, they’ve been there for it,” Greene said.
It had been a two-year process since Greene applied for the dog. Josh said he initially trained a different dog, Chile, for the purpose of selling to Greene but the dog proved not to be up to par. Chile was never delivered to Mike and instead was sold to a family as a pet, Josh said. Patch represented a second attempt to provide Greene with a service dog.
Greene said the lifetime guarantee was a big selling point for him.
“He’s a great dog as far as alert dog,” Greene said. “He’s alerting on me a lot stronger now. When I first got him I might have missed some cues. He’s also a lot better in crowds.”