Dog Trainer Threatens To Take Mobility Service Dog From 8-Year-Old

8-year-old Ava Reed has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It’s a neurological disorder that makes it hard for her to walk and stay balanced. Currently, she uses a mobility walker to help her get around, but her parents knew there was something more they could do to help her. So, they decided to get her a service dog.

Maggie joined the family over a year ago. The young Labrador Retriever was supposed to be trained to help Ava get around. Yet, one year later, the puppy still had very little training. This caused a major dispute between the family and the dog trainer.

Girl with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease
Image: Screenshot,

Welcoming Maggie to the Family

Getting Maggie was no easy task. The Reeds needed $11,000 to pay for Maggie and all of her training. They worked with Jeff Tawater, the executive director of K9 Direction, to get Maggie. The community helped the family raise thousands of dollars to afford Maggie’s training, and any extra money would be used on her vet bills and dog food.

Everything seemed perfect when Maggie joined the family in 2018. Ava bonded with the service pup almost instantly, and her parents hoped that Maggie would make a huge difference in Ava’s life. The puppy would be trained to help Ava up the stairs, improve her balance, and help her stand back up after falling over.

Girl Scout and Service DogGirl Scout and Service Dog
Image: Screenshot,

Unfortunately, as time went on, the family realized that Maggie wasn’t learning any of this. A year went by and the puppy didn’t know much beyond basic commands like ‘sit’. They definitely didn’t feel comfortable leaving the dog alone with Ava yet because the puppy had too much energy. Whenever they asked Tawater for Maggie’s paperwork or for a specific training schedule, the dog trainer seemed to avoid the questions. That’s when the Reeds knew something was wrong.

The Lawsuit

Eventually, the Reeds felt that they were left with no other choice but to sue. Tawater had promised a trained service dog to the family, but he failed to provide that. The family adores Maggie and they’ll keep her no matter what, but she’s not trained as promised. Upon hearing about the lawsuit, Tawater became frustrated.

First, Tawater threatened to take Maggie from the family, saying that she wasn’t officially their dog yet. He even posted on Facebook, seeing if he could find someone to adopt her. He also shared some rude comments about the family. The Reeds wanted whatever remained of their $11,000 to be returned so they could use it with another dog trainer. Tawater said he wouldn’t give them the money and that he’d give it to a nonprofit instead.

Labrador Retriever Wearing HarnessLabrador Retriever Wearing Harness
Image: Karon Reed Facebook

“We are of the position that Mr. Tawater knew from probably the beginning that he did not have the skill set the ability to train a dog to this magnitude,” said Monica Timmerman, the Reed family’s lawyer.

Later, he came forward and said that he no longer planned to take Maggie away. He has now ended his service dog company, but he said he can continue training Maggie as promised. However, the Reeds are not convinced. Not only are Tawater’s mixed responses concerning, but the family believes that this lawsuit is about much more than just money. They don’t want any other child to get hurt by Tawater’s false promises again.

No More Fake Promises

Apparently, the Reeds aren’t the only family deceived by Tawater. 19-year-old Grace Richardson had a similar problem with her mobility service dog named Remington. Her family cut ties with Tawater after very little training was done with Remington. Tawater had trained the dog to do little things like retrieve objects, but the pup didn’t provide balance for his handler.

Girl with Labrador RetrieverGirl with Labrador Retriever
Image: Screenshot,

As a part of the Reeds’ lawsuit, other trainers evaluated Maggie. They explained that a mobility dog should have strong hips and joints, but Maggie’s hips weren’t in excellent condition. It’s possible that she could still be trained for her role, but there’s also a possibility that she might just be a companion dog from now on.

Ava loves Maggie very much, but at this point, the pup won’t be able to help her at school. Ava’s parents fear that their daughter will struggle as she enters 3rd grade. They had hoped that Maggie would be ready to accompany Ava by now, but instead, they’re forced to potentially look for a new service dog.

“[Tawater] sat in the room with us when we sat there with Ava and said, ‘Hey Ava, you’re going to get a service dog.’ There were all the promises, all the hope of you’re not going to have to use a walker at school. You’re going to have a dog to help you,” said Jimmy Reed, Ava’s dad.

Labrador Retriever On CouchLabrador Retriever On Couch
Image: Karon Reed Facebook

The Reeds hope that no other family will have to go through a situation like this. Service dogs definitely aren’t easy to train, and Tawater should’ve communicated with the family better from the beginning. Hopefully, Ava will get a fully trained service dog in the near future despite this upsetting event.

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