The man behind Guardian Angel Service Dogs has had his share of legal problems in his home state of Virginia, and a barrage of comments online raised questions about his organization following the publication of a story last week.
Dan Warren, president of both Warren Enterprises LLC and Guardian Angel Service Dogs, did not respond to several messages left for him regarding information that he was found guilty on seven charges of “uttering” and seven charges of “false statement to obtain credit. Warren, whose name is actually Charles Daniel Warren Jr., was sentenced to 35 years in prison on the uttering charges and 84 months in jail on the false statement charges in the Chesterfield County Circuit Court on April 17, 2008.
The charges stemmed from Oct. 1, 2005, through Aug. 30, 2006, according to the sentencing order provided by the Chesterfield Circuit Court. Uttering, as described in Virginia law, means to pass a forged document knowing that the document is forged. Uttering is considered a Class 5 felony in Virginia and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Warren was able to get his entire sentence suspended and was granted supervised probation.
According to a person familiar with the case, Warren was working as a finance manager at Whitten Brothers, a car dealership in Richmond, Va. As finance manager, Warren was forging documents of potential customers who did not have the income necessary to qualify for car loans. Warren ultimately falsified documents to indicate the customers did qualify for the loans.
It wasn’t until an angered customer “blew the whistle” on the scheme that Warren was arrested and charged.
Despite not commenting or returning messages left for comment as it pertains to information discovered by The Examiner, Warren has left messages for clients on his Facebook page as well as issuing a press release stating his “regret” for the misunderstanding regarding the fundraising done by Ryan and Tara McLeod. Their son, Racer, 3, has Type 1 diabetes, which is also referred to as juvenile diabetes.
The McLeods sought a declaratory judgment two weeks ago in Jefferson County asking to sever ties with Guardian Angel Service Dogs after Warren sent a letter through his attorney, John Anderson, asking for all the money the McLeods raised at their fundraiser in February. The family paid $20,000 for the dog, referred to as a Diabetic Alert Dog, which is supposed to be able to sense changes in a person’s blood sugar. They raised more than $60,000 and the excess funds were put into a separate account to go toward Racer’s medical bills.
Anderson, when reached by The Examiner, declined to comment on the filing because he had not seen it yet and was not aware of such a move until he read about it last week on The Examiner’s Web site.
Warren stated in his press release on his Guardian Angel Web site that, “While time and space do not permit the correction of all of the misstatements” in The Examiner article written last Thursday, July 12, “Guardian Angel Service Dogs Inc. wants to make it very clear that Warren Enterprises LLC is not affiliated with Guardian Angel in any manner and does not ‘own’ Guardian Angel.”
And while Warren Enterprises LLC might not “own” Guardian Angel Service Dogs, a Charles Warren Jr. is listed as the owner of Warren Enterprises LLC, which coincidentally has the same physical address as Warren Retrievers, 15216 Rockford Road in Montpelier, Va. Warren also uses P.O. Boxes in Orange, Va., and Montpelier as contact information on his Web sites as well.
The house at 15216 Rockford, which according to Hanover County property tax records is owned by a Charles (not Charles Jr.) and Marianne Warren, sits on 11 acres, has five bedrooms, six bathrooms, 4,596 square feet, and is for sale. It’s currently listed at $549,500.
On the Warren Retrievers Web site, it mentions that Guardian Angel Service Dogs is “a fully incorporated 501(c)3 organization and is the philanthropic arm of Warren Retrievers and Diabetic Alert Dogs by Warren Retrievers.”
And according to the Internal Revenue Service, Guardian Angel Service Dogs, which was incorporated in October 2010 and granted tax exempt status in April 2011, has still not filed its 990 with the IRS after it was due May 15, 2012. The organization could be subject to penalties when they do submit their 990, a form nonprofits are required to submit each year to the IRS disclosing their financial information. The forms are available to the public.
Carol Borden, executive director of Guardian Angel Medical Alert Dogs, a service dog provider based in Florida, also has a beef with Warren over the use of the name Guardian Angel Service Dogs.
“He was a member of our Facebook group a couple years back and after I noticed he started his company using almost the same name, I kicked him out of the group,” Borden said. She wrote him a cease-and-desist letter last year to stop using the name but never heard back.
“We have nothing to do with them,” said Borden.
‘It’s not going to be adequate’
Dr. Larry Myers, a canine scent expert and professor at the University of Auburn, has more than 30 years of experience studying dogs’ scent detection abilities and is skeptical of dogs being able to sense changes in a person’s blood sugar — period.
“It’s plausible,” said Myers of a dog being able to detect blood sugar changes, “if they’re trained properly. Two years of training, sure, but it’s the continual training that’s also necessary.”
Most dog trainers prefer one to two years of training by a certified dog trainer before a dog is ready to be placed with a diabetic. While there’s still no guarantee the dog and the person will work together, in most cases, the dog at 2 years old is much better prepared to scent detect than a dog that is dropped off with a family at 3 months old, as is the case with dogs from Guardian Angel Service Dogs. Guardian Angel sends the dog to the family or person at 3 months old and a pair of trainers spend a week with the family and the dog, training the dog and teaching the family how to train the dog.The trainers then return for two days every 90 days for the next two years.
“I’ve seen that done before,” said Myers, “and in a case like that, it’s not going to be adequate. I doubt it seriously. The fact isn’t proving whether or not they’re trained; it’s are they reliable, which most dog trainers don’t know how to test.”
Myers said there’s plenty of ways to train a dog, and he’s even seen a situation in Missouri where a company, Heaven Scent Paws, was involved in a similar dispute over fundraising and training, or lack thereof. The company ultimately went bankrupt after it was ordered to pay $200,000 back when the Missouri Attorney General filed charges against the company for essentially scamming customers with dogs that couldn’t alert.
“What is the reliability of these dogs?” asked Myers. “How often do they false alert? How often do they say there’s a problem when there is no problem? How often do they say there’s no problem, but there is?”
Susan Milhollon and Mary McNeight are both well-versed in training and working with diabetic alert dogs. Milhollon suffers from diabetes and is the executive director of Dogs 4 Diabetics, based out of California. McNeight, who suffers from hypoglycemia but is not a full-blown diabetic, has a diabetic alert dog, or DAD, and trains them, as well, in Seattle, Wash. She can be found at servicedogacademy.com.
Both women prefer training dogs for up to two years before giving them to a family, and McNeight said she has each of her potential clients go through a rigorous questionnaire detailing what goes into training and keeping a DAD. Milhollon said her organization also has a strict set of guidelines and procedures before its clients can own a DAD.
Ready to be over
Ryan McLeod said he understands there was training that needed to be done when his family received Gunner, but he was also told that his dog was going to alert, which the dog really hasn’t done in the two months he’s been with the McLeods.
McLeod said he’s received plenty of positive feedback since last week, and he understands the brush-back from some of the Guardian Angel supporters, as well. He and his wife continue to work with the dog but are growing frustrated and simply want to end this situation with Guardian Angel and move on.“We’re not doing this to sue them and ask for a bunch of money,” said McLeod. “We have enough stress as it is; we just want to cut ties.”
Fred Davis can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 227, or by e-mail at fred [at] theexaminer [dot] com.