DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On the doors of a charity in Dallas, all that remains is a “space available” sign. This is after it had already taken in money to provide a disabled boy with a service dog.
A dog that was never delivered.
Questions and a lot of unsatisfied customers are in full force after New Life Individual and Family Services, located in the 9500 block of Forest Lane, suddenly shut down. And the operators are nowhere to be found.
It was especially tough on 12-year-old Josh Wallace, who was excited about getting a service dog.
“Mostly wanted a dog to open doors and pick up stuff,” Wallace said.
The mother of the young boy with muscular dystrophy thought she found one when she contacted the Dallas-based non-profit organization.
“They were a rescue company that rescued dogs to train them to be service dogs,” Erica Valenti said.
Wallace’s family, which lives in Pennsylvania, says it made two payments of $500 and was about to send the final one when they made the disturbing discovery.
“Facebook was shut down, all the phone numbers were non-reachable, and they stopped emailing us back,” Valenti said.
All traces of the operation have disappeared, including its Forest Lane office.
CBS 11 found a number of bitter customers who claim in online reviews that they were ripped off by the business which is registered as a charity.
“People are getting scammed, and it’s unfortunate,” Shannon Walker said.
Walker provides service dogs to veterans with PTSD, and she said people with bad intentions or unqualified trainers can easily prey on those who need the animals.
“It’s a real lesson. A lesson to learn the service dog industry does not have a governing body and some people in the community have to really do their due diligence,” Walker said.
Photos posted by New Life before it vanished showed no signs it was going away and would leave a child — with enough hardships already — feeling victimized.
“I kind of feel pretty sad because it’s just not fair to take money from people who need a service dog,” Wallace said.
Wallace’s family said the money for the service dog actually came from a fundraiser.
According to Walker, if someone is offering to train and sell a service dog for less than $10,000, it should be a red flag because that price point is too low for the time it takes to properly train the animals.