A Gainsborough mum who fears she has fallen victim to a ‘service dog scam’ which will see her lose £2,500 of funds raised by the community for her autistic five-year-old son has spoken of her heartbreak.
Samantha Walford contacted Service Dogs Europe earlier this year in the hope of securing a specially-trained assistance dog for her son Charley, who has autism and ADHD.
The company, based in Ireland, instructed Samantha and her family to set up a fundraising page to raise the fees needed to purchase and train the dog.
Thanks to fundraising efforts from the Gainsborough community, the page’s target was hit and Monty the Irish setter arrived with the Walfords a month later.
But Samantha discovered the dog had not been fully trained to assist a child with Charley’s condition, and was ‘horrified’ when she later contacted the fundraising page’s organisation only to be told her money had ‘been taken away’ by Service Dogs Europe.
Samantha said: “I am so frightened that we have lost all the donations that were so kindly given to us by good-hearted people all over Gainsborough.
“I am a very trusting person and I didn’t think anything like this would ever happen to me and my family.
“It looks like the company has gone bust and someone has made off with all the money we raised for Charley.
“I have contacted Action Fraud who told me this has happened to other people and that they were looking into it.
“I feel I have a responsbility not only to warn people in my town, but also to offer the community an explaination as to why the funds they worked so hard to raise for my son have basically just disappeared.”
Samantha is apparently not the first person to have a negative experience with Service Dogs Europe.
Facebook pages criticising the company have been set up, with customers across Britain announcing their fundraising pages have been ‘closed without warning’.
Some people are claiming to have received insufficiently trained and even ‘malnourished’ and ‘injured’ dogs, while others say they have not received an assistance dog at all, despite coughing up thousands of pounds to purchase one for relatives in need.
A spokesman for Action Fraud told the Standard: “There have been 12 reports made to Action Fraud, all made in September and October of this year, concerning this matter.”
The spokesman added that an investigation into the issue was still ongoing.
Service Dogs Europe appear to have disabled their websites and we were not able to reach them for comment.