COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– Logan Gonzales has a severe nut allergy.
“My throat closes and my tongue gets really big,” Gonzales explained.
This 12-year-old has been in the hospital nearly 50 times because of his nut allergy. It makes him scared to go new places and he is often segregated at school to protect against exposure. Logan and his family bought an allergy detection dog with the hope of allowing Logan to expand his world.
“We had hopes that this would change his life,” said Judie Gonzales, Logan’s mom.
The Gonzales family paid $17,000 to Angel Service Dogs, based in Monument, Colo., for a labradoodle named Roxie. Roxie was trained to sniff out and alert to the scent of peanuts. The family says when they took Roxie home she could detect the scent, but she was far too distracted to work efficiently as a service dog.
“I’ve been training dogs approximately 35-years,” said Sean Hartley, a dog trainer based in Colorado Springs.
Hartley says he tried to train Roxie to be an Angel Service Dog, but she didn’t have the right personality. He says she was easily distracted, which made her a poor candidate for working as a service dog.
“Roxie was not ready,” Hartley told CBS4.
He says he told that same thing to Sherry Mers, the owner of Angel Service Dogs, before Roxie went home with the Gonzales family. But the dog was sold anyway.
“It looked like it started to become more about the money than the product we were putting out, and not about the kids,” Hartley said about Angel Service Dogs.
Judy Gonzales says her son and the rest of the family love Roxie and wouldn’t want to give her up. She calls the labradoodle a very expensive house pet. She also tells CBS4 that in the nine years they’ve owned Roxie, Logan has been to the hospital 15 times because of his peanut allergy.
Sean Hartley is still training scent detection dogs for peanut allergy suffers. He works privately and says he picks the dogs and the families that he works with very carefully. He also charges around $10,000, about half of what Angel Service Dogs charges.
“The dogs that are sweeping in front of the President (of the U.S.) cost roughly between $10,000 and $15,000 and that’s with 12 odors…working for the President. I couldn’t understand how someone could charge so much for a dog working one odor,” Hartley said.
Hartley trained Max to detect peanuts for 6-year-old Dillon.
“How does he tell if there’s a peanut in there?” asked CBS4’s Suzanne McCarroll.“He sniffs first and then he sits,” Dillon replied.
“To have that level of protection, I don’t know if you can put a price on it,” said Dillon’s father, Rudy Haberzettl.
Haberzettl and Hartley both agree that a scent detection dog is just one of many tools that families should use to keep their children safe. No one tool is foolproof, but using several lines of defense can help keep children out of the hospital.
CBS4 tried to contact Sherry Mers, the owner of Angel Service Dogs for comment on this report. She did not return our calls. In the past she has publically said that she stands by all of the training for all of her dogs. She also says that the families who buy scent detection dogs have a responsibility to maintain the training after the dog is in the home.
–Written for CBSDenver.com by Special Projects Producer Libby Smith