Passing along a blog post to support the families affected by the fiasco that has been known as the Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism Service Animal program. It has been posted at Dogs with a Cause -> HERE
Please read it and pass it along to all that you know.
At one point the majority of us will feel the effects of stress. Some situations amplify its effect.
I would like to thank all of you who have been following the story of our dealings with Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism since April of last year. Your support has been very important, especially in the very beginning.
I have never thought of myself as a troublemaker, or one who likes to stir the pot just to get people riled up. I make every effort to move through life acting with honor and integrity. In day to day dealings it is much easier to be honest and up-front, to tell the truth to each and every person. In this way there would not be a multitude of stories to remember because inevitably the story will change based upon who is listening to make it more believable or appealing to them.
I like to think that most people are honest the majority of the time. I do not believe that anyone still walking this earth is honest all the time (This is my opinion and not a fact). Those people who are chronic liars put themselves at risk for increased health problems. You see, lying triggers the release of the same stress hormones released by the bodies fight-or-flight response. This increase in these stress hormones causes a boost in blood sugar levels and triglycerides (body fats) to be used by the body for fuel, an increase in both heart rate and respiration, a decrease in the digestive process and hypersensitivity of muscle tissue as the body prepares itself for a hasty retreat or a standoff. This chronic anxiety and outpouring of stress hormones can result in serious physical consequences, including:
suppression of the immune system
short-term memory loss
premature coronary artery disease
Excessive stress or anxiety may make a person become so irrational that they cannot focus on reality or think clearly. At this point, they may begin to experience physical symptoms. So why do I bring this up? You see, it is the same reaction for both the person lying and the person on the other side who does not believe the liar but cannot convince others that the lie exists.
It has been demonstrated that a person who tells the truth consistently finds it easier to tell the truth and a person who habitually lies finds it easier to lie as time goes by. And although it may become easier to lie over time the knowledge that they may get caught in their lie still causes the rise in the stress hormones. As the lie builds so does the stress. And think back to the person who has caught the liar and yet very few are willing to listen. That person is also subject to the same stress response due to excessive worrying, and anxiety.
Putting this in the context of our situation: there are the families dealing with children diagnosed with Autism (no stress there, right), who have to daily contend with those who truly do not understand and frequently toss out judgements on their ability to parent (after all, if that were my child they wouldn’t act like that). These families are in a constant struggle with schools, insurance companies, and some even their own families. Now add onto this an organization that was initially viewed as a godsend that has become the albatross around their neck (How could they have possibly not known to check more closely. I know that I would have.) It is always easy to sit on the outside and give advice. We do already realize things that could have been done better and more effectively. We saw some of the warning signs but in our defense they were plausibly explained to those of us with no experience with some of the processes.
I have heard multiple times “Why would you choose an organization that was not a recognized 501(c)3”? We were told that they had applied for tax-exempt Non-Profit status from the IRS and were awaiting final determination AND their Facebook Page STILL shows them listed as a Non-Profit (Yes, Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism, I am looking at you while I say this). I have never applied for Non-Profit status, nor formed a service organization and did not know how this process progresses. I know a bit more now. I knew very little of Service Animal Training and was very intimidated by the costs (expected family donation) in order to receive a service animal from many of the training organizations out there. I now understand why the cost is so high but I hope you can see why an organization which requests approximately half of that would be so appealing.
Our stress level is very high, our health has been affected and yet we cannot just stop. We must continue to move forward and care for our children. We still have our responsibilities to meet despite what has happened. It hurts to see the “LIKES” increasing on their Facebook page, but we know that we made the right decision in leaving this program. It is far less stressful than the continuous uncertainty that was our life while we were part of it.
Please read our story and share it with all that you know. It will help us immensely to know that people are listening and do believe.
There have been several very nice gestures from outside organizations since the light has begun to shine on our dream turned nightmare. For several months we felt very alone and isolated…what we saw as problems others sought to brush off as just minor inconveniences. After all, a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company such as Pepsi wouldn’t stand for being made to look foolish. After all, they have many teams of lawyers on staff and at the ready should anyone try. We must be mistaken.
And yet I know we were not.
Recently, Patricia Gross (Executive Director of North Star Foundation) wrote to Donna Callejon (Chief Business Officer of Global Giving) after seeing the news stories, and reading the posts concerning Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism program. She wrote to express her deep concern for the dangerous partnerships that may be created in an inexperienced way with a breed (Siberian Huskies) that can be aggressive to small creatures. I would like to share with you the email sent from Patricia.
Thanks for your thoughts and I welcome opening a dialog with you…
Did the person you spoke with who received a husky have a child with autism as the focus of the assistance dog placement? Remember a dog that is good for an adult with a physical challenge is a different dog than one that is good for working in close quarters with a child with autism, who is apt to bother the dog physically by way of challenging the amount of body space as well as poking fingers into the dogs’ eyes/nose/mouth…a bite can happen lightening quick, and it is preventing this that is about 90% of the work we do at North Star in terms of proper breeding, socialization, supervision and partnership of a child with autism and an assistance dog. Also please keep in mind that every breed imaginable has its enthusiasts, and there are even those that advocate pit bulls as good assistance dog candidates. Despite the variety of opinions you can find on the web, professional service dog organizations agree that the best breed for working with a young child with autism is most certainly a golden or labrador retriever, but this service dog selection should not rest simply upon the breed, but upon finding the proper pup in a litter of well bred golden or lab pups; for Animals for Autism to claim that all 10 husky puppies from a litter are to serve ten children with autism is ignorant, as there is no way that all 10 puppies will have the proper temperament (it would also be impossible for an individual or small organization to raise, train and place 10 pups simultaneously with children with autism; at North Star it would take us at least two healthy golden litters and $100,000 to meet this demand.)
Here are some facts about the Husky breed, obtained from Wikipedia; please keep in mind as you read how inappropriate this breed truly is for any child, much less a child with autism.
Huskies are an active, energetic, and resilient breed whose ancestors came from the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. Siberian Huskies were bred by the Chukchi of Northeastern Asia to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. The dogs were imported into Alaska during the NomeGold Rush and later spread into the United States and Canada. They were initially sent to Alaska and Canada as sled dogs but rapidly acquired the status of family pets and show dogs.
The Siberian Husky has been described as a behavioral representative of the domestic dog’s forebear, the wolf, exhibiting a wide range of its ancestors’ behavior. They are known to howl rather than bark. If the dog is well trained, it can make a great family pet. The frequency of kenneled Siberian Huskies, especially for racing purposes, is rather high, as attributed through the history of the breed in North America. They are affectionate with people, but independent. A fifteen-minute daily obedience training class will serve well for Siberian Huskies. Siberians need consistent training and do well with a positive reinforcement training program. They rank 45th in Stanley Coren‘s The Intelligence of Dogs, being of average working/obedience intelligence. They tend to run because they were at first bred to be sled dogs. Owners are advised to exercise caution when letting their Siberian Husky off the leash, as the dog could be miles away before looking around and realizing its owner is nowhere in sight. They are excellent “escape artists” as well, and have been known to climb chain-link fences and find other ways of escaping a confined area. They also get bored easily, so playing with toys or throwing a ball at least once a day is essential. Failure to give them the attention or proper exercise they need can result in unwanted behavior, such as excessive howling, marking, chewing on furniture, or crying.
In regard to the plausibility of Animals for Autism’s grant, it is not just the puppies or the facility that need to be funded in terms of creating ten assistance dog partnerships with children with autism; it is the dogs’ socialization for the first two years of life, ongoing training, introduction to the child and ongoing support for this partnership, money set aside for the requisite emergencies, money to replace one of the dogs if they wash out; dogs are nothing like products that just need to be shipped. Children with autism need to learn how to handle their dogs, and the dog needs a careful introduction to the child, and all this takes money, time and experience to do correctly.
All of these things are clearly beyond Lea’s ability to do; I know this because I have been doing this exact work (partnering children with autism with assistance dogs) as a nonprofit for a decade, and I can only make ten placements a year via two separate golden litters, with an up and running organization that relies on volunteer and corporate help for sustained support for our work; it isn’t just obtaining ten husky dogs Animals for Autism needs to do here, but to create ten safe and effective partnerships that was promised these families, and the real problem here is actually what will happen when and if substandard dogs are paired in an inexperienced and underfunded way (for true cost of this endeavor is more than $5,000 per placement, and the grant money not enough to build and sustain a facility). A bite to a child’s face is a very real possibility here and the way I see it, everyone is just sitting on top of a world of danger if these families are served incorrectly.
Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have for me.
Here is a respected, well-established service dog organization tossing out a lifeline and yet those in need refuse to acknowledge that they might have made a mistake. Maybe, just maybe, it was not done intentionally. Everyone makes mistakes. What you do after the mistake is the sign of true character and integrity. Where will your road lead Global Giving? Do you see yourself aligning with the Pepsi Co. Guiding Principles or instead do you choose to stray?
The digital age has brought with it a whole new world that brings with it a host of advantages. I have enjoyed the ability to communicate almost instantaneously with various members of the family seemingly no matter where they might be. It is commonplace for people to be carrying a cell phone, and this also means they are usually carrying a highly portable video/still camera capable of pictures ranging from 2 – 10 MegaPixels many capable of HD video. This means that a moment can be shared as it happens with an almost limitless audience. From the simple communication device of old it has now grown into the modern smartphone. Excuse me just a moment, I need to answer a quick Tweet.
From the phone a picture can be quickly posted to a Facebook album, Tweeted out, or pushed to any number of photo sharing sites to be shared with the world. Many a phone has the ability to run Skype and provide real-time video chat. Videos may be captured and uploaded to YouTube and yet for months families have waited for Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism to post a single picture of the dogs in their Autism Service Dog Training Class to be graduating this Spring. You know, the dogs to be trained using the funds from the Pepsi Refresh Everything grant that was applied for and received by Lea Kaydus, the founder of the Animals for Autism program. The only pictures of the growing “Pepsi Pups” were actually rather sad. The picture below links to the photo album. There is speculation as to the actual breed of the dogs. White Shepherd has been suggested a few times.
Do these look like dogs you would feel comfortable assisting your disabled child.
It would not be fair if I didn’t once again state that Lea Kaydus applied for the grant as an individual not as her “organization” and she is required to remain and individual until the end of the grant period. It would have been nice to have her publicly state this instead of continuing to campaign using the name Animals for Autism. And then once the grant was announced, Animals for Autism released a press release announcing THEY had been funded. Not really all that transparent.
But back to the original thread of this post. Communication with Animals for Autism though any form of written medium became all but non-existent. Lea insisted that the only reliable form of communication would be through phone…her cell phone. Which again makes me wonder…why, with that wonder of modern technology in her possession the majority of the time she was unable to capture a video of any of the dogs in training, or heck, even a picture of a training session. That would have given the families an opportunity to see their pups and the trainers in action. As far as I know, none of the families involved has even spoken with their trainer(s). All communication has been with Lea Kaydus.
I see a lot of misdirection, smoke and mirrors and many parlor tricks.
Do you see what I see?
[Paws 4 Autism has setup a dedicated fund for the ten families directly affected by the Animals for Autism / Siberian Snow Babies / Pepsi Refresh Grant Scam. To donate to this fund please follow the Paws 4 Autism link here.]
[The domain AnimalsForAutism.com has been registered by a concerned family and will be used to point to verified Autism Service Dog sources. Any of their sites will have a labrador has its primary picture.]
Today was better than yesterday. That is a small victory in the books. At the moment I am happy for these small victories and am taking one day at a time.
Since April of 2011 I have watched as a small “organization” in Illinois elevated my families hopes of obtaining a autism service dog to stratospheric heights and then within just a few months sent it all crashing down.
Since officially withdrawing from their training program – I believe that we were the first family to join them in 2011 – I have sought answers to question and even to this day I have received very little. There are several people who have stepped forward in an effort to help us get those answers and I would like to say thank you to them and those for which they work. Without further ado…thank you for shedding some light on this story:
I hope that it will not end here but continue to burn bright and bring out the truth of it all. For this to happen I believe that there will need to be a constant reminder for the families involved to have closure. I wish I could say that I thought it stopped with the families mentioned in the various articles – I have a sinking fear that it extends beyond that even beyond the confines of our country into possibly Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Each person who has posted a comment on the Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism Facebook page inquiring about a possible service dog was given instructions to email for further information. Below is our email inquiry to Lea Kaydus, founder of Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism.
My wife and I are searching for a service dog for our soon-to-be 8 year-old daughter, Faith. A very quick background on her and why we are seeking a service dog. Faith had a right-hemisphere stroke prior to birth. She is diagnosed with Autism, mild cerebral palsy, Familial Mediterranean Fever Syndrome, Rapid Cycling Mood Disorder and several life-threatening food allergies. The stroke also caused a disruption in her growth – the left side of her body is smaller than the right side. Although not as extreme as some it has been systemwide to include bones and internal organs. As a result she has had developmental delays and her fine motor skills and coordination are very poor which is only compounded by increased swelling in her extremities.
We are hoping to find her a dog which can help her become more independent and less fearful. To help her mobility: provide assistance when she is having difficulty walking, retrieve items that she has dropped, possibly open doors, assist with getting dressed. Emotionally: to interrupt self-harming behavior, stay with her during the night and alert us if she wanders, help her calm during “meltdowns” and ease both transitions and public places by providing support. If it were possible for her dog to alert us in the event of an allergic reaction.
With all this being said; a service dog is desired over a therapy dog. Our goal is to help make her more independent and less reliant on our constant presence.
Would your program be able to assist with these items? What is your wait list? Do you have specific requirements? What are the anticipated costs?
Thank you so much for your time and help.
This was answered the next morning with the following email which included an application to their program:
Thank you for your inquiry about our service animal program. The basic requirements for our program are a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder, be age 5+, and have a prescription from a physician stating the need for a service animal, none of which should be a problem for you. I would be most honored to develop a training program for one of our animals to meet your daughter’s needs. Some of the challenges you have presented are more time consuming than our usual requests from a training perspective, however, they are all attainable. I will address each of your requests individually.
1 – Balance assistance with gait is a fairly common training challenge, yet unique to each individual. Part of our application package is a request from you of a short video to help familiarize our team with your daughter’s needs. A clip showing her walking and mobility challenges should be a part of that submission.
2 – Picking up dropped items – easily accomplished.
3 – Opening doors – easily accomplished.
4 – Assistance with dressing is a bit more challenging and depends on the specificity of the actual tasks. Retrieving and passing on articles of clothing is quite doable, but I would like a clearer description of what it is you would expect of the animal.
5 – Interruption of self-injurious behaviors – easily accomplished through a combination of the service animal and ABA techniques, but I would like additional details about the specific behaviors we will be training to interrupt.
6 – Spending the night and wandering alert – easily accomplished.
7 – Calming meltdowns – easily accomplished through a combination of the service animal and ABA techniques.
8 – Allergic reaction alert – This concerns me the most. There are two ways of training for this, and I will need to know what your daughter is allergic to. At this point, I am assuming she has an anaphylactic reaction to whatever the allergen(s) may be. The easiest (and safest) method of training for allergy alerts is to train the animal to alert in the presence or near proximity of the allergen. Additional details will be necessary.
Training for an average autism service animal takes 12-18 months with 1000 to 1500 hours of active, hands-on time. Most of these programs are actually completed close to the 12 month/1000 hour set-point. With some of the advanced skills needed for your daughter, I feel the minimum hands-on time will be 1500 hours. That is normally spread over an 18 month period, but if time is of the essence to you, the animal could be trained for longer daily periods, and still finish close to the 12 month mark.
All of the animals in our program are generously donated by quality breeders who are our close, personal friends we have known since our “show dog days” many years ago. All are from champion or grand champion AKC or UKC bloodlines and are of optimal health. The average life span of the animal is 12-15 years, with most dogs ready to retire between 8 and 10 years of age. At retirement, you can either retire him/her with you but no longer in service, or the animal can be returned to us to live out his or her retirement years. There has been recent press regarding a gentleman whose animal was repossessed for what the agency considered just cause. I will not comment personally, other than to say that when we transfer an animal to a family for service, we relinquish all rights to that animal and simply ask you to return it to us if it is no longer of service or you can no longer care for it.
In addition to having donated puppies, we have also been blessed to have donated space in which to work with the animals, gracious volunteer puppy raisers, and some donations of food and other supplies. We also have incredible trainers who work contractually for us at a rate of just $5 per hour. They consider their discounted rates to be their gift to our families. We even have a couple of junior trainers who are on the autism spectrum and working toward careers of their own in animal husbandry and training. All of this takes place under the supervision of myself, and I am a Certified Master Trainer. The actual cost to raise and train a service animal is in the $20,000+ range, but we are able to place our highly-trained service animals in the $5000 to $7500 range, and the pricing reflects the number of training hours required.
I cannot make a final determination of cost without a completed application package, however. There are many pointed questions in the application package, and each is extremely important for the development of the training program. It is not a test, but the clearer and more detailed your responses are, the better we can map a course of action. Once I have that in hand and can meet with our team, we can determine the necessary training time, and let you know the outcome. Our general policy is that our families travel to central Illinois for the final phase of training, which is a week of intensive integration and proper handling techniques to use with your service animal. If you case, I am thinking may be more appropriate for a trainer to come to you for that week. Should that be decided, there will be travel fees associated in addition to the training program.
At the present time, we do not have a waiting list, and we have puppies just entering the early “citizenship” phase of training. However, the waiting list can and does tend to change from one day to the next. I have attached a copy of our application package for you, and if you have any further questions, do not hesitate to ask. You are also welcome to call me directly if you wish at 217-XXX-XXXX. I spend much of my time with puppies and in meetings, so leave a message if necessary, and I will get back with you as soon as possible. Thank you again for your inquiry, and I hope we can work together to enhance the quality of life for your little one.
~LM Kaydus, CMT, BSA, MAS Founder, Animals for Autism AKK National Rescue Autism Mom
And even more impressive was how quickly the organization’s board met and voted to approve our application; and how quickly we were matched with our 5-week-old pup. And even though we had been cautioned because of the lack of trainer names listed on the web site and where they learned to train service dogs; we decided to proceed. Hindsight is 20/20. I can only hope that others will learn from our haste and make a more informed decision that might also include advice/counseling from a local autism resource center, discussion the organization with an autism resource center in their geographic area, advice/counseling from knowledgable dog trainers and verifying tax status, business status, and their compliance with regulations.
Consider reading a few of the following blog entries:
From the official application guidelines for the Pepsi Refresh Project: The Pepsi Refresh Project is an online grant program which makes available millions of dollars to be granted to projects which are intended to improve communities through an online, democratic voting process (“Grant Program”).
This program has such amazing potential providing 60 grants totaling $1,125,000 per grant period to help individuals improve their communities. Its funded ideas have included the replacement of equipment for high school marching bands, building community playgrounds, the shipment of care packs to deployed soldiers, and the funding of animal shelters and rescues. So how does the magic begin?
A person, or organization (for-profit or non-profit) submits their idea via the online application. The idea is then put up to a public vote on the Grant Program website. The top ten ideas receiving votes then go up for final certification prior to funding. Sounds simple enough. There are stories that the competition for these grants, especially during the last stages of voting, can get quite cutthroat. Sadly, I think that sometimes it can bring out the worst in people while attempting to promote good.
The “founder” of Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism, Lea Kaydus, applied for a grant during the May voting period. She solicited support from everyone and anyone she thought might be able to help her gain the grant, including partnering with other organizations competing for grants. In her Animals for Autism Facebook page she sought support from her Facebook fans. Her press release dated May 1, 2011 titled Animals for Autism to Place 10 Autism Service Dogs Free of Charge? does very clearly identifies her organization as the grant requester. The posts on the Facebook page were the same. If you had asked the families participating in her service dog training program who would be the grant recipient I am fairly certain the response would have been Animals for Autism, and not Lea Kaydus. So in this way we all felt very misled. I suppose things like this happen and I should not be surprised. So I am going to just ignore this for now. I would like to focus on other things.
A few days ago I decided to pose a few questions to Lea Kaydus on her organization’s Facebook wall. Here is my post:
Hello Animals for Autism. I was wondering why are you still listing your group as a NON-PROFIT organization when you are not? I know that we were not the only ones waiting as you told us the paperwork was filed.
Why are you posting pictures on the Animals for Autism Facebook page of puppies that are clearly listed for sale on PuppyFind? I would think that it would be better to post pictures of service dog training, since that is what you do (after all, you don’t just breed puppies and sell them)
I would love to know the thinking behind it but am sure my post will go the way of many others like it on your wall, unanswered.
And the reply coupled with a picture of yet another group of puppies playing.
Because I applied for a grant as an individual, I am required to remain an individual until the end of the grant period. Fortunately, this detail was discovered before the application was processed with the correct user fee. However, the IRS allows Form 1023 to remain unfiled as long as an organization has gross receipts in each taxable year of not more than $5,000. Since Animals for Autism’s receipts are far less than $5,000, the NFP can accept contributions without filing until the end of the grant period. It is allowable to file the form within 27 months after the end of the month in which you were legally formed. I did, however, overlook a $15 required state fee for accepting donations on behalf of our families, and that was rectified several months ago – along with a late fee. As far as pictures are concerned, there are thousands of beautiful puppies out there, most of whom do not qualify to enter into a service animal training program. Twila is just one example, as she’s entirely too shy. However, she is still quite adorable, and most people tell me they enjoy just seeing the pictures, so I share them here. Profits from ineligible puppies like Twila are donated to the Animals for Autism program. =)
Ms. Kaydus, there are people who enjoy seeing pictures of cute little puppies (even puppies for sale) but on your Animals for Autism Facebook page and (when it was active) your Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism web site the people who are YOUR training program – the members of your Spring ’11 Autism Service Animal Training Class – really want to see you post pictures of their dogs working in a training setting. To see them out around town wearing their Service Dog In Training vests becoming accustomed to that which many of us still dread dealing with. They want to see them growing and advancing. While the puppies may be cute; they are irrelevant. It can be likened to the realtor showing you a Barbie Dream House, pointing out all the wonderful accessories and additions when you just want to see your new house.
This is from the IRS website regarding recognition of Tax Exemption which I believe is where Ms. Kaydus has pulled the numbers in her response from. Wish I were a tax lawyer and understood the wording a little better. Is there anyone out there who does? I would love to hear from you.
Some of the families have been told that the Pepsi Pups are currently in emergency shelters because you have not received the entire $50,000 grant from Pepsi. When you modified the funding agreement, and your detailed line item budget as required by Global Giving did you not also include a line item for food and medical supplies? The families were informed by both Dennis Dowd and Terri Maini of the Pepsi Refresh Project that their funds provided automatic feeding systems, crates, leashes, harnesses, collars (wonder why none of the dogs wear collars or name tags) as well as building upgrades. When you consider that you normally already have all of that lined up through donations prior to offering up the service animal and are only requiring the recipient to cover training costs at roughly $5/hour I would think that should have been a priority.
Ms. Kaydus has not upheld her portion of the many verbal contracts in which she has entered. She has repeatedly and continuously ignored requests for information from those in her service program. She has repeatedly ignored requests for information from the Better Business Bureau, and the Attorney General of Illinois. Ms. Kaydus told the Attorney General that the families knew funds were nonrefundable and yet her application includes a refund policy. Where is the integrity in your organization Ms. Kaydus? Why have those in your local area not heard of the service you offer?
One last thought: there were numerous families receiving upwards of 30 Power Vote codes each day during the month of May from Ms. Kaydus. Where did all these codes come from? Did you truly collect them and distribute them? Was that where the money from the families was spent? Or were you part of the Mister Magic fiasco as well…
[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.
I am not angry at Pepsi or Global Giving. I understand that as business entities neither of you have done anything illegal and that the administration of the grants disbursed by your Pepsi Refresh Everything Project has been done according to the predetermined plan. I am disappointed in both of you because I feel you allowed someone to manipulate your program to gain the materials and equipment to increase the number of puppies they sell online; all of this done in the name of helping autistic children. And when the concerns were brought to your attention they were ignored. It was as if your program were infallible. Does that really hold true to the Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles of your companies?
OK, so you apply for a grant from Pepsi as an individual (although I would venture to say that you had to do so because your “organization” is not legally a legitimate organization) Then on your Facebook page where you’ve asked the rest of the world to Vote for your idea at Pepsi Refresh – why do you make it sound like “Animals for Autism” has applied. You never once said “The founder of Animals for Autism, Lea Kaydus, has applied for a grant from the Pepsi…”
And then, why did you issue press releases as “Animals for Autism” stating that you had received your Pepsi grant and would be using the grant to place free autism service animals? Especially since you already knew that this had changed because Global Giving wanted something more tangible to be able to measure your progress toward goal completion. Why did you not once mention this to those supporting you.
Where did your entire support system go? You know, the volunteers and donors who supply you with vaccinations and microchipping, puppy foster parents, supplies like food, leashes, collars, harnesses and dens. That is how you claim to only need the training fees to be covered by the applicant families. And if you knew this was not the case this time, why did you not include pet food, those other essential supplies and registration with local authorities for the pups, maybe even collars with name tags on them to allow you to visually differentiate the pups? Instead you chose automatic feeding systems (10 of them) so that the pups could be automatically fed in their kennels. Which family needs a pup trained to get its food from an automatic feeding system? Why would it be needed initially if the pups are with the foster puppy raisers? Almost sounds like you were wanting to use this almost as an assembly line to get your pups out there in quantity. How did your budget of $25,000 disappear so fast.
Did you spend it all on the construction of the “new facility”? From the outside it appears to be an add-on to the larger steel barn. It almost looks like your standard RV garage. I’m almost positive as prior owners of your own trenching and excavating company, you probably still have some contacts in the field. Why would you say that you “purchased” your new property when you are merely relocating your facility to land owned by your husband’s family. Why do you respond to every new person who posts on your Facebook wall asking how to acquire a service animal with “Feel free to email *********.yahoo.com for application information.” but refuse to reply to the families currently in your program. Why do you insist on deleting legitimate questions posted on your wall?
Why would you not leave a forwarding address with the Post Office? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you have received requests for explanations from the Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, Navy Legal, and I am sure others at your current address. How are your clients supposed to be able to find/contact you? You tell everyone who asks for information on your Facebook page to email you and yet claim to not have internet access for extended periods of time at frequent intervals. How did your daughter update her Facebook profile so often while you did not have internet access? Who posted the ads on PuppyFind.com for the Siberian Puppies on your behalf? What about the eBay auction that seems to be continuously renewed?
Recently Animals for Autism founder, Lea Kaydus, was asked by a reporter from WICS – Springfield for information pertaining to the concerns with her program. [She declined an on-camera interview with the explanation that it was not allowed by Pepsi] She informed the reporter that all was well with the program and that the puppies would be delivered on time as promised. That is very contradictory to the information received by one of the families in the program. This family was told that the puppies were in emergency shelters since she did not have the money to feed them. She also told another person who had called inquiring about a service dog training program that her program was on hold due to lack of funds, the puppies were in emergency shelters and had not yet begun training and that it would be 18 months after she was able to get them back before they would be able to be delivered. So which is it? You claim on your Facebook page that all is well, why was there no mention of emergency shelters and lack of funds for food?
[Editorial note: My other posts talk of ten families that were part of the Animals for Autism program. This is mostly true – there were ten families that became part of the program sponsored by the Pepsi Refresh Everything project but there were others caught up in this]
Thirteen families entered into a program with high hopes, high energy and expectations of a better life on the other side. Autism Service Animals can bring that to a family.
Yes, I said thirteen.
We should not forget the first that brought all of our attention to Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism. The family that was to receive a free service dog in honor of Autism Awareness Month,were the Johnson’s. After all, if we had not found that press release we might have missed all this fun. They have not had any real contact with Lea Kaydus or any other trainer from Animals for Autism. This pup was the one Animals for Autism had planned from the get-go to donate free-of-charge. He had been donated to the training program and all expenses should have already been taken into account, even the cost of paying the trainers. Which makes me wonder – so what has happened to James?
Then shortly after the announcement of the placements to be funded by the Pepsi Refresh Everything Program, our group was joined by the DiRedo family. Even though their training costs were not covered by the Pepsi grant their pup, Kino, was to be trained alongside all the others. Whatever happened to Kino?
And then one last family, with funding in place from a generous benefactor. The requirements were that it would only be given to a program which was a 501c(3) and must be used prior to the end of 2011. Animals for Autism claimed to be a non-profit on their Facebook page. People were told time after time from June onward that the all paperwork had been submitted to the IRS and AFA was simply awaiting their final determination. When the elusive tax ID number was received it was discovered that it had never applied for non-profit status AND that it did not belong to Animals for Autism or Siberian Snow Babies. The Spencer family not only wasted a lot of time waiting for the “right” dog to be found and the tax ID number in order to utilize there funding; the family is now in the position that they no longer have the funding. This could have been utilized somewhere else had they been told the truth.
So what happens now? To be honest, I am not really sure. I wish there was an answer that I felt truly satisfied all aspects. What value do you place on the time that families spent waiting because they believed in the organization providing the excuses. Those excuses were bolstered by the insistence of the grant program that all was well – that all was on schedule and nobody should be worried. What value do you assign to this? Global Giving, would it be acceptable to have treated Ms. Indra K. Nooyi in the same manner that you have treated the families who called with concerns? Were these concerns forwarded to anyone in the leadership. Have you read the PepsiCo Values and Philosophy? Maybe they don’t apply to you but I would think that Pepsi would be looking at your actions since their Values and Philosophy are the foundation for every business decision they make which would include your oversight of their Refresh Everything Project.
Our Values & Philosophy are a reflection of the socially and environmentally responsible company we aspire to be. They are the foundation for every business decision we make.
Pepsi Co Commitment
We are committed to delivering sustained growth through empowered people acting responsibly and building trust.
What it Means
Responsibility and Trust form the foundation for healthy growth. We hold ourselves both personally and corporately accountable for everything we do. We must earn the confidence others place in us as individuals and as a company. By acting as good stewards of the resources entrusted to us, we strengthen that trust by walking the talk and following through on our commitment to succeeding together.
Pepsi Co Guiding Principles
We uphold our commitment with six guiding principles. [3 of the 6 shown]
We must always strive to:
1. Care for our customers, our consumers and the world we live in.
We are driven by the intense, competitive spirit of the marketplace, but we direct this spirit toward solutions that benefit both our company and our constituents. Our success depends on a thorough understanding of our customers, consumers and communities. To foster this spirit of generosity, we go the extra mile to show we care.
3. Speak with truth and candor.
We tell the whole story, not just what’s convenient to our individual goals. In addition to being clear, honest and accurate, we are responsible for ensuring our communications are understood.
6. Respect others and succeed together.
Our mutual success depends on mutual respect, inside and outside the company. It requires people who are capable of working together as part of a team or informal collaboration. While our company is built on individual excellence, we also recognize the importance and value of teamwork in turning our goals into accomplishments.
All I am asking is that you hold to your values as a company, as individuals, and honor your commitment. Show the world that even though you may come out with a bit of a black eye you will do so with integrity.
[Editorial note: I apologize for covering items mentioned in the previous post(s) but there is just so much that has happened and I do want to paint a complete picture. There really is a wealth of information and to put it all in one post is overwhelming.]
Our life since withdrawing from the Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism program has been quite the roller coaster. It was hard enough to admit to ourselves that maybe, just maybe, we had made a mistake in the organization we had chosen to provide our Autism Service Dog. After all, the “founder” of the organization had a child on the spectrum. She knew our trials and tribulations, at least to some extent after all, no two autistic children are identical. Please read my previous post, if you have not already, for some more background.
We wanted to believe that it all was true, that autism service animals could be provided for a minimal cost even with the extensive training that would be required. This organization claimed that their access to resources and volunteers would allow them to cover most of the costs associated with providing Autism Service Animals. “The only costs associated with acquiring one of our animals are for the the training required to prepare them for a career as service animals. In addition, our trainers have greatly reduced their normal fees to make the dream of owning an Autism Service Animal a reality for more families than ever before.”
It was a dream. A dream shared by many a special needs family. We dream of the freedom, of the stability, that could be provided by a well-trained autism service dog. Many do not believe that dream is even close to a possibility due to the high costs associated with the acquisition. The promise of only needing to pay for training costs at a highly reduced rate is very appealing. Animals for Autism promised this. A service dog for on average $5000.00 which could be paid over a period of one year while your dog was being carefully trained under the watchful eye of a trainer who would be in continuous communication with the family. Then mention that this organization is planning on giving away an Autism Service Dog in honor of Autism Awareness Month. That certainly garners attention.
The fees were kept lower by screening and testing donated AKC and UKC puppies. By securing funding for all veterinary expenses, including spay/neutering, immunizations and microchipping, prior to placement. Securing “foster care” for the animals’ socialization (also known as puppy raisers) prior to placement. Providing a consistent diet of nutritionally balanced, high-quality food for the animal for the duration of the program (Lea was very specific that she utilized Purina products). Animals for Autism would secure donated equipment – tethers, leashes, collars and harnesses as well as a crate or “den” for the animal and then provide a “working vest” and proper credentials, documentation and all health records at time of placement.
Just recently, a reporter, Mike Brooks, from an ABC affiliate in Springfield, Illinois went to try and get some information and maybe some answers. Ms. Kaydus told Mr. Brooks that the dogs were with donor families learning the basics, and that they only come to her for training sessions. She said that everything was on schedule and going fine. When he asked to see the dogs she said that it would not be possible. This was the story the news reporter was given. An “anonymous” person called to “inquire” about a service dog and was told that they have the service dog training program on hold until Pepsi gives them the rest of the money. Pepsi has only given them $25,000 and is holding off on the rest because people are lying about them and saying that there are no dogs. Due to this, they can’t afford to even feed the dogs right now and so they are in emergency shelters waiting. They have not yet begun training and they cannot get the dogs out until they get the rest of the money from Pepsi. Are you hearing this Pepsi (and Global Giving)? Once they get them back it will take at least 18 months to train. Anybody is welcome to come out to visit the dogs at the shelter in the meantime. It was so bad that they didn’t have a Christmas. Please remember that since May they have received over $5,000 from the families participating in their program AND $25,000 from Pepsi through Global Giving. This does not even include donations made directly to them on behalf of the families in the program since that has never been fully disclosed. If you figure that a 40 pound bag of Purina dog food can be purchased for about $30 a bag…why is it that they could not feed the animals? Especially, if the animals are actually out in their “foster homes” learning the basics. I believe that the volunteer puppy raisers were donating their time and providing for the puppies during that stage.
Each family seems to be given a version of the story most suitably tailored for them. How much of what we have been told is true and how much is false? I cannot even begin to guess. I do know that I would not wish this upon any family, let alone a family with a child on the autism spectrum. A child that has been told since May that soon they would have their very own puppy, who would be able to be there for them, no matter where. A puppy with a name and a face that was apparently a dream too good to be true.
Through this experience I have met and become friends with a group of families I would not have met otherwise. For that I am grateful. I am very bitter that you hurt my family. I am upset that I was not able to stop that from happening. I am angry that so many refuse to even see it as a problem. How would you feel had it happened to you?