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Even a Great Cause May Be Warped (originally posted on Dogs with a Cause)

[Editorial note: This post has been copied in its entirety from Dogs with a Cause (AnimalsForAutism.com)  I know, it says it is from Animals for Autism.  When we first became marked as “troublemakers by Lea Kaydus and Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism I registered the domain name in an effort to possibly redirect traffic to a more reliable source]

There are times when you just have to admit that someone you had counted on to do the right thing decided that there was something else that was more important.  Somehow, somewhere, the trust that you had placed in them was deemed to be less important than _________ [and this is where it becomes a bit of a guessing game and you have to fill in the blank].

There were at least 13 families that put their trust in an organization called Animals for Autism our of Tallula, IL.  They were beyond ecstatic when they heard there was the possibility of getting their autistic child an autism service dog for the unheard of cost of $5000.  I know, it sounds like an awful lot for a dog.  In reality, it is nowhere near the actual cost when you take everything into account.  To help you see this I will give you a few of the statistics.

Roughly 1 in 40 dogs has the proper temperament and intelligence to become a service dog.  Of those that do pass the screening, only 1/2 of them are able to complete the training and go onto a career as a service animal.  With that being said, to guarantee a graduate you would screen 160 dogs and begin training 4.  And there are all the costs of taking care of those animals over the course of the 12 – 18 months of training.  Oh, but we must not forget we want the dogs properly socialized so they should probably be with a puppy raiser just learning how to be polite around people and other animals before they begin their training.  We should do that for 6 – 12 months.  Then we can begin advanced obedience classes and specific task training.  A lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of money goes into training a service dog.  It can cost between $13,000 – 20,000 to provide one service animal.  I certainly did not realize this before.  So you see, that $5000 is a miracle.  So how do they do it?

According to their web site Animals for Autism has a vast network of donors, supporters, and volunteers at their disposal.  The dogs are donated from various breeders they know from their prior time in the show ring.  Supplies such as leashes, harnesses, vests, collars, and even a crate are donated to assist them in keeping the costs down.  Funds for all medical care to include vaccinations, spay/neuter, microchipping and well checks are procured prior to beginning the training program.  Food and other incidentals are brought in as donations, either free or at reduced cost.  Foster care for the puppies socialization is secured prior to the program starting.  All that is needed is money to pay the trainers and soon there will be a highly trained service dog ready to head out and do great things.  And have I mentioned that the trainers have agreed to work at the highly reduced rate of $5/hr [they consider it their gift to the families who need the puppies].  So that is how it is done on paper.

With all that being said and you have run a promotion to provide one (1) autism service dog free of charge to a family in honor of Autism Awareness Month I would think that all funding for that animal should be in place prior to making that offer public.  Then you begin soliciting for applications for this  free service animal.  You post on autism boards, various autism resource web sites, maybe even put out a press release.  At some point you realize that this appears to be a huge market since you have received over 1,000 applications with more arriving daily.  Now maybe you are thinking, I would love to be able to help more families.  I know, Pepsi has their Refresh Everything Project and I can apply for a $50,000 grant.  If I can get that grant I can help 10 families since it only costs me about $5000 to train a service dog.  That would be 400 hours of Basic Obedience, 400 hours of Advanced obedience and 200 hours of Stay/Wander Halting.  [Going back to the math, statistics would say that in order to supply 10 trained service dogs you would need to screen upwards of 400 dogs and train at least 20.]  I am really glad all that is needed is money to cover the salary of the trainers since that is already $5,000 in just their cost.  Really glad that all the other costs of having a dog has been covered because of the foresight to not begin training a dog until all other expenses have been met.  Otherwise, it could be very bad.

What if that wasn’t the case?  What if you had become one of the ten ideas for the month that was chosen for funding but you were told that you could not use that $50,000 for trainer’s salaries.  You had to use it for something tangible, something easier to monitor.  Let’s just say that Pepsi through their grant administrator, Global Giving, told you that you had to use the money for supplies, or building upgrades.  But you didn’t really need funding for that – just trainer’s fees.  Now, where would you be?  You have all these families and autistic children counting on you to deliver the FREE autism service dogs but you can’t just turn your back on a $50,000 grant.  After all, maybe there are things that could be purchased to help.  Maybe, even get ahead for the next group you will train.  Then comes the question, who will cover the training fees for these 10 additional FREE autism service animals?  Looks like you will either have to tell those families that you cannot provide the animals, or they will have to pay the fees themselves, or maybe, you will have to cover the costs associated with the training from your own money.  Not the best of choices.  Up to this point it has been assumed that all is above board and legitimacy exists.  If it didn’t then Pepsi would not have allowed you to receive this $50,000 grant.  After all, who goes around handing out that much money to just anybody.  [If you do know of someone who does, please email us their info here so that we can be put in contact with them]  Here you are trying to do this wonderful thing for these autistic children and you have hit a major stumbling block.  What to do??

Now let’s take a little trip using our imagination.  Imagine that you are the parent of an autistic child that has been accepted into this godsend of a program.  You saw the $5,000 price tag and although it was more than you had available you say to yourself “I can raise that much money.  We have some money saved up.”  The pictures of the puppies on the web site were just so cute and they look so ready to have a permanent home.  You begin looking for donors to help you raise the money.  You have found some willing to help if the program you are working with is a certified 501c(3) and their support will be tax deductible.  Sounds great since you saw on their Facebook page that they were a non-profit and when you had asked you were told that the IRS was in the final phase of non-profit determination.  You were a little concerned when the organization wouldn’t give you their Tax-ID number to give to your potential donors, but eventually you were able to get it.  People have asked to see pictures of your puppy.  They want to see the puppy doing service dog training sort of stuff.  They want to get that warm, fuzzy feeling about their donation and their work on your behalf.  Too bad all that you received was a low resolution digital photo that becomes severely pixelated (fuzzy) when it is enlarged even up to a 3″x5″ size.  So you ask for a better quality picture, and more…are there more for me to show people?  And you are told no.  Not right now, and I’m afraid we are just really busy at the moment – you know we are trying to win a $50,000 grant from Pepsi that might possibly cover all your training fees.  We know you are busy with your own individual fundraising but would you be willing to help us?  There is a chance it will benefit you in the end.  Of course!  How could you turn this down?  You ask friends, family, and even complete strangers to help.  You recommend the organization – they are doing great things for autistic children.  Still, you don’t receive any new pictures, or real training updates.  Now that you are thinking about it, you haven’t actually even talked to your pup’s trainers.

Remember that Tax ID you were given a while back; one of your donors has called to let you know that it was invalid.  Not only was in not in non-profit status, it doesn’t belong to the organization that gave it to you.  Maybe there was just a transposition of numbers.  Had to have been a simple mistake.  So you figure you will look it up on the IRS database, but you can only search by name there.  You type in “Animals for Autism” and get no items returned.  Hmmm, maybe I should search under “Siberian Snow Babies” instead.  Nope.  Nothing.  How about “Siberian Snowbabies” then?  Again, nothing.  Frustrated with the search you  pick up the phone and call the local IRS office for help.  Their agent only makes that sinking feeling in your stomach worse when you hear “I’m sorry, I cannot find anything under any of those names.  The Tax ID you asked about does not belong to any of the organizations you mentioned.  Yes, the database is updated almost instantaneously.  It usually only takes about 2 weeks for the whole process to be complete once the application is submitted online.”

You want to feel right about something so you pull up the picture of your pup – that always makes you feel better.  Knowing that little puppy will make such a huge impact on your child in the near future.  Really cool coincidence – the pup shares your birthday.  Maybe putting the picture in the header of your request for help can help win over a few people.  Wait, why does this picture say that it was taken in 2007?  You know your pup was born in 2011.  There it is, embedded in the photo’s exif data: the camera brand and model, exposure settings, flash settings, date taken.  There’s that feeling coming back with a fury like no other.  Looks like the only recent pictures on the organizations web site are the ones they have posted of their “Puppies for Sale”.  All the others seem to be from several years back, and all are taken with the same brand and model camera.  How are you feeling about your choice now??

The face behind Animals for Autism

So why is it that so many people are so enamored with this organization.  So much so, that they can do no wrong.  Please…just think about it.  And also, read the other blog posts that are being posted about this organization and its founder, Lea Kaydus. [She also goes by the names Millie, LM, and utilizes the last names Kaydus and Denton]

Thank you for reading this blog post, I know it got a bit long.  Please share.


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