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Review for North Star Foundation, Storrs, CT, USA

Rating: 1 stars  

We originally posted a positive review of NorthStar within hours of receiving our puppy. Since then we have been consistently disappointed by NorthStar and Patty Dobbs-Gross. Let’s start at the beginning: after some emails and phone calls between our family and Patty, she offered us a dog for which “the adoption had just fallen through.” When we visited NorthStar in Storrs, CT, we were appalled by the conditions: the house was filthy, the kitchen where we first met the dog was not fit for human use, and a litter of puppies was penned into a makeshift plywood enclosure in the garage. We understood from Patty that her autism dogs were part of a special program intended to bring out “forgiveness,” which was managed reputable breeders. On the second visit, we left with the puppy, a used cage, some paperwork, and some brochures to share with other ASD families. We paid $5,000 for the dog over two installments—at first we were told the dog, vet care and training cost $10,000 and that we could get her help raising the other $5,000 from family and friends online, but somehow we got the bargain price of $5,000 for this dog that magically was available when we called.

As we settled into life with our autistic seven-year old and a new puppy, working with Patty became frustrating in the extreme. It took multiple calls, voicemails and emails to get her response to simple questions, or movement on promised training support. The dog’s paperwork consisted of a blurry fax of a litter report dated 4/20/2011 with some vaccine stickers taped to it. It was impossible to tell if this was in fact a report for our dog, or for someone else’s entirely. The only place our dog’s name appeared was on the fax coversheet, and even then her name was communicated as something different. The technician at our vet said she had never seen such shoddy paperwork, and as a result we had to repeat the full round of shots supposedly done by NorthStar. To top it all off, the NorthStar credit card that was supposedly on file with our local vet never materialized, and each time we went for checkups or shots or the very expensive spaying procedure, we were literally left with the bill. NorthStar’s lack of attention and follow-through cost us thousands more on top of the initial $5,000 for the dog. In short, our carefully bred super autism dog was actually of unknown pedigree with no useable paperwork or records and a non-responsive partner in the venture. This was not helping our autistic son, but instead causing us to divert our attention away from him to deal with Patty.

A few more annoyances and inconveniences: the first in-home trainer provided by Patty walked off the job with no warning after less than a month’s total training time. We had to pester Patty for weeks to get our dog signed up for good puppy classes, where we met another NorthStar family that had similar complaints. Patty at one point let slip that she bred the puppies herself, presumably in her garage. We repeatedly asked for breeder paperwork and have never received any. The last straw was when our dog was diagnosed with hip dysplasia at six months old. She will require a special diet, medication and more frequent vet visits for the rest of her life, and even more care when her hips start going for good.

Add the financial and time losses to the fact that the dog is supposed to help a child with autism. If you’re reading this, you probably have a child with ASD, and are familiar with the research about the positive effects of dogs on autistic kids. Take it from a family that has suffered through months of aggravation, half-truths and broken promises at NorthStar’s hands: go to a reputable breeder and get a good dog. Get to know the puppy lemon laws in your state, and if they apply to breeders (CT’s apply only to pet stores). In our opinion, NorthStar is fly-by-night at best, and outright fraudulent at worst. Patty Dobbs-Gross was paid $5,000 for a dog any reputable breeder wouldn’t sell for $500, and we got none of the support or training we agreed to in her contract. That contract also clearly states that no refunds will be provided if the relationship between the family and NorthStar ends prematurely. Caveat emptor!

Let this bad experience serve as a warning to anyone who flirts with this organization. Run as fast as you can from NorthStar and don’t look back.

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Role:  Client Served