Company under investigation didn’t train $14K service dog for VB man with autism, family says

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A service dog company is under investigation in North Carolina. 

The company claimed to train dogs for people with autism. But a number of families, including one in Virginia Beach, say they spent thousands for a trained dog, but didn’t get what they paid for.

Virginia Beach resident Michael Riggs is living with autism.

“His anxiety gets extremely high,” said the 22-year-old’s mother, Rhonda DeCrescentis.

DeCrescentis thought she found a way to comfort her son.

“I came to the conclusion that a dog specifically to give him the attention would help him calm down,” DeCrescentis added.

DeCrescentis saw an online listing for a North Carolina company called Ry-con Service Dogs, which specializes in training dogs for people with autism.

“The dog is supposed to focus entirely on him,” DeCrescentis said.

The family bought Blue from Ry-con as a puppy at a heavy price of $14,500. But just days before they picked him up in November they sensed an issue.

Ry-con sent an email it was out of business. The company is now the focus of an investigation by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. At least 40 families from all over the country say they bought dogs that were never properly trained.

“I can’t take the dog anywhere,” DeCrescentis added. “It is almost an embarrassment too.”

The family says Blue doesn’t listen and they have to crate him for fear of attacking strangers.

“He can’t take the dog out in public, because the dog can’t behave properly and I’m not going to have a liability where he hurts a child or anybody else,” DeCrescentis said.

WNCN, WAVY’s sister station in Raleigh, caught up with Ry-con’s owner Mark Mathis to get his side. He told them he would not comment.

Michael and Rhonda say they are keeping Blue.

“It’s a big disappointment,” DeCrescentis added. “You thought they had the right intentions and the heart was in the right place.”

They hope someday there is justice.

“I don’t think it is fair to Michael or any child or adult that needed these dogs,” DeCrescentis said.

So far no criminal charges have been filed against Mathis.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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