Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Family Warns against 'Guardian Homes' after Teen's Therapy Dog Taken by Breeder

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Family Warns against 'Guardian Homes' after Teen's Therapy Dog Taken by Breeder

Article excerpt

Family distraught after dog taken by breeder

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VANCOUVER - Since Devon Wagner's dog was taken away, he says he feels like there's a "hole" inside of him.

The 18-year-old suffered a life-changing concussion playing hockey six years ago. It caused blinding headaches and sensitivity to light and sound, forcing him to drop out of sports and delay school.

His mother, Carolyn Hopkinson, got him a Labradoodle as a therapy dog in 2013 under an arrangement with a breeder known as a "guardian home." But this February, the breeder abruptly took the dog back, citing breach of contract.

"She completely changed my life," Wagner said of his dog, Savana, his voice breaking. "When I'm really down, she's no longer there for me because she was taken away. I really just want her back."

The gentle black dog is now at the centre of an anguished legal dispute between Wagner's mother and the breeder. The British Columbia family's case, observers say, reveals the pitfalls of becoming a so-called guardian home.

Hopkinson had never heard of guardian homes before she saw an ad for $600 Labradoodles three years ago. The single mom was thrilled to see the crossbreed, known for its sweet nature and low-shedding coat, advertised for a fraction of its typical $2,500 price.

As she learned, the practice involves paying a breeder a deposit. The dog moves into one's home, but is returned to the breeder periodically to breed. After the dog provides a certain number of litters, the breeder refunds half the deposit and it becomes one's family pet.

Hopkinson said she told Karen Firus of Dreamland Doodles she was concerned about the "one-sided" contract. The guardian home takes responsibility for a long list of care requirements, but the dog remains the breeder's property until the contract is fulfilled.

"She told me she would never take a dog out of a happy home," Hopkinson said.

Instead, Hopkinson alleges in a small-claims lawsuit filed in B.C. provincial court that Firus seized Savana without notice in February. Hopkinson alleges Firus was motivated by the prospect of a "breeding windfall," as the dog had sought-after light-coloured puppies. …

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