Update Regarding Return of Dog

Update Regarding Return of Dog

Update on Canine Companions for Independence Dog Returned

Canine Companions for Independence asked for the return of a dog that we had placed with an individual who graduated from our Team Training program because we believed the dog’s safety was in jeopardy. We took this difficult step as a last resort after many attempts at resolving the dog management issues with the graduate.

As a practice, we work with a graduate when we are concerned about the dog or the team’s safety. We made repeated efforts for the past year to address the safety concerns of the dog being off lead in unenclosed and urban environments, as well as concerns about the graduate’s decreasing ability to control the dog.

Canine Companions has placed over 3600 assistance dogs. In 36 years and 3600 dogs we have had to ask for a handful to be returned when we think the health and safety of the dog is in jeopardy. That’s fewer than 1 in 500 ever asked to return their Canine Companions dog; we make every effort to work with the graduate to make a successful placement and stand by our record of service with our graduate teams.

After our prolonged and unsuccessful attempts to resolve the safety issues, the graduate took it upon himself to use a shock collar on the dog and this precipitated our action to intervene. Canine Companions has a policy prohibiting shock collars on all Canine Companions dogs.

Due to these factors and other evidence, we asked the graduate to return the dog. The dog is not in a cage and has been cared for in a loving home since his return.

Importance of Good Dog Management:
An important skill and asset for a successful assistance dog team is the graduate’s ability to manage the dog. Canine Companions trains graduates to be good dog handlers, to manage the dog on and off leash in life situations. The emphasis is having the dog under control. Regretfully, the graduate and others are portraying this solely as an on-lead vs. off-lead issue; that is inaccurate. The graduate’s decreasing ability to control the dog has put the dog’s safety at risk.

It is important to have a well-managed dog and the leash alone is not the reason the dog is well managed. It is the handler/graduate being in control of the dog in all settings and being aware of potential risks confronting the dog. There are situations where a dog could be off leash, under control and safe. Here, the graduate was unable to control the dog and resorted to an electronic collar rather than working with Canine Companions to address the control issue appropriately.

Canine Companions Complaint Process:
Canine Companions is known for clear communication and the ability to have difficult but respectful conversations with our graduates and volunteers.

In this case, the graduate seemed unwilling to work cooperatively with Canine Companions before Canine Companions recovered its dog. Since asking the graduate to return the dog, Canine Companions has continued to seek to work with the graduate to resolve the safety concerns:
  • Since the day the dog was returned and the days after, Canine Companions has offered to the graduate the opportunity for continuing conversations. Regretfully, this is not what the graduate has been saying publicly.
  • Canine Companions invited the graduate to use Canine Companions’ complaint process to resolve his complaint; he accepted our invitation by recently submitting an appeal to Canine Companions’ CEO.
The decision to seek the return of Canine Companions’ dog was a difficult one. Canine Companions’ guidelines and practices reflect our 36 years of experience training and placing assistance dogs successfully. We know that there are many viewpoints being shared.

Canine Companions has never shied away from honest differences of opinions. It is our expectation that Canine Companions supporters that engage in discussions around this issue do so in a respectful and professional manner.

We thank you for your confidence and support of Canine Companions and the people we serve.
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