United response from the Pepsi Pup families (And why I have a headache)

Over the past 6 months, I, and all the other families, have been raising concerns and asking very specific questions. The replies we get are full of plenty of words, but never an answer. And each family has been told a different story. They range from “The dogs are in shelters because I could no longer afford to feed them” to “Everything is great, the training is right on schedule!” Those two statements were given to different people on the same day. Below is the letter from Lea, our united response to it, a letter from Global Giving (in which they still don’t get it) and our response again. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and take a moment to read. 

HERE IS THE LETTER LEA KAYDUS SENT TO MOST OF THE FAMILIES:

Over the past several months, there has been a lot of misinformation shared about my Pepsi Refresh Project, and I regret the heartache that it has caused you and your family. I am sorry that I was not able to be as communicative with you, the person this grant is meant to benefit, as I would have liked. Many of your concerns about the animals could have been alleviated during this journey had additional lines of communication been in place. We live in an “off the grid” location, and unfortunately getting an internet connection took far longer than anyone could have anticipated. While I am grateful that my internet access has been recently restored, I am a bit old fashioned – so even with email and Facebook restored, phone remains the best way to reach me. I would enjoy speaking with you at any time, so please feel free to call me at 217-415-4868.

I would like to assure you that absolutely no grant funds are missing, have disappeared or been misappropriated. After I became a finalist for the Pepsi Refresh Project, the Grant Administration Agent, GlobalGiving, and I structured my project plan and budget to cover tangible expenses associated with raising and training ten autism service dogs. This meant building a facility designed to accommodate the individual training necessary to making sure that the dogs are ready to go for your child. The grant agreement I have with GlobalGiving outlines this, and the expenditures are being monitored and reviewed by the grant administrator on a regular basis. Although the line items on the project budget have changed from my original program proposal, the result remains the same. The grant is being used for the placement of service animals with eligible families who applied and elected to participate. The grant status has always been and remains in good standing, and I am moving forward accordingly.

Please know that I can empathize with you. I applied for this grant as an individual, and not as an organization. As such, all participants are being served by me, and not by a nonprofit. I care deeply about the safety and quality of life of children with autism, as my inspiration for this project was driven by my own experience raising my beautiful daughter who has autism. I have seen the incredible difference our huskies have made in her life, and I am impassioned to share this with other families who might be able to benefit from a service dog as well.

Regarding the photos of the animals, all pictures were taken in 2011 or later, and they are photos of the actual animals who entered and continue to be trained in the Pepsi Refresh Grant program. The most recent pictures posted are also of the actual animals, and they are not random dogs. I will happily share photos of your individual pup – something that has not been easily accomplished until now. I realize how important it is for you and your child to see your dog, and I would love to do that for you and send them to you individually. I would also like to plan a moderated conference call every month with you, the other Pepsi families, and GlobalGiving to discuss the progress that the dogs are making. Hopefully this will help everyone be on the same page surrounding the next steps in getting you your service pups. I am still planning to place the dogs beginning this spring. Each dog will have a slightly different timeline, and we will still require at least 20 hours of one-on-one training when you come to pick up your service dogs.

While it is my deepest hope that you will remain in our program to receive the pup we have here for you, I understand that you may not feel comfortable continuing as part of the Animals for Autism project. In respect to all who will benefit from this program, may I ask that you please reply to this email to declare your intention to remain in this program, or if you’ve decided this is no longer the path you’d like to take so that I may find another family. Please feel free to call me with any questions you may have before you make your decision, and I sincerely hope you will choose to receive the service dog we’ve been training for you.

Again, I welcome any questions you may have and I thank you so much for your patience. Please call me at 217-415-4868, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best regards,

Lea Kaydus

THE PEPSI PUP FAMILIES UNITED RESPONSE:

Dear Lea, Global Giving and Pepsi,

We are grateful to have some form of communication from you; however,
we are sad that this came about only after many months of asking and
waiting. It is disappointing to all of us that communication was only
initiated after significant media attention. We all expect a fully
trained and suitable service dog for our children, reserving our right
to move forward and comply with investigations currently underway or
opened in the future.

Due to lack of consistent answers when posed a question, a history of
lack of communication and removal of Animals For Autisms website, we
feel there has been a major breech of trust. We are offering a chance
to re-establish some trust by once again asking a few questions.
Before we commit to any answer regarding our place in the program, we
would like to have our questions answered.

1. We would like the easily verifiable canine training credentials of
Lea Kaydus and each individual trainer who has contact with the dogs.
These dogs are possibly coming into our homes and we have a right to
know the specific verifiable credentials of those training them.

2. We would like to know if during the 5 months Lea Kaydus was “off
the grid”, did she maintain contact with Pepsi and Global Giving?

3. We would like to see the line by line budget of what exactly
Pepsi’s grant is funding. Many of us feel very deceived since we voted
for one grant (training fees) and only much later found out that it
had been switched after the voting ended.

4. We would like to know specifically if Pepsi and Global giving are
concerned with the safety and appropriateness of the service dogs
attempting to be placed with our children, as promised in the original
voted upon grant, or if they are only concerned with the “facility”?

5. Was there a service dog training expert on hand during Global
Givings inspection that took place 01/23/12? If so, who was it and
what are their credentials?

6. We would like to know the verifiable age and the sire and dam (with
AKC numbers) for each dog that began training. We would also like
immunization records from a third party veterinarian for each dog who
entered into service dog training and we would like the current
location of each dog who entered into service training including phone
numbers of any shelters utilized.

7. We would like to see a video showing all the dogs together,
introduced individually, with a demonstration sample of training
achieved in the past 9 months by each dog.

8. All the families that paid money into the program would like the
requested, but still not received, financial statements stating what
came in and from whom, with full amounts listed.

Being “off the grid” does not trump basic decency. There are many
other ways to keep in touch, none of which were exercised.

We kindly ask for your response to be in written form so all families
are told the exact same thing and for easy referral in the future.

Thank you for your your time and attention to this matter,

The Animals For Autism Families
Pooser Family, DeWitt Family, DiRedo Family, Andrade Family, Creighton
Family, Williams Family, Johnson Family, Spencer Family, Ristau
Family, Podkowka Family

GLOBAL GIVING WRITES BACK:

Please give us a call anytime on Monday between 9 am – 5 pm Eastern. 202-232-5784. Please tell whoever answers that you are calling regarding the Animals for Autism project so that we can transfer you to the right person. Thank you! Global Giving

OUR RESPONSE:

I would ask that someone within the addressee of this message take notice of the line “We kindly ask for your response to be in written form so all families are told the exact same thing and for easy referral in the future.”
Response may be sent to pepsipupfamilies @ gmail .com
Otherwise it is my belief that you intend to continue along the path we are currently on with no care for our concerns.

5 thoughts on “United response from the Pepsi Pup families (And why I have a headache)”

  1. Hi Allison,

    I this is a wonderfully written letter and important follow up comment: it all needs to be in writing now, especially the concept of who takes written responsibility for the safety of your children…

    (Although I am not a doctor, still you know that in my work with childen with autism I first strive to do no harm…and in reference to your headache, my advice is to take two aspirins and call me in the morning…there is still work to be done to ensure these promised placements are delivered safely and effectively to the children…)

    Kind regards,
    Patty

    Patty Dobbs Gross
    Executive Director
    North Star Foundation
    http://www.NorthStarDogs.com
    northstarfoundation@charter.net
    We help children find their way

  2. First, I’d like to express my condolences to those people who appear to be scammed. I am particularly interest because I am a 9 time puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence. Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is a national, non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities (other than blindness) by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships – at NO CHARGE to the recipient. All funding is through private organizations, fundraising and volunteers like myself who donate their time and money because they respect CCI and the independence it provides.

    CCI is one of the pioneers in this field and continues to be an active part of Assistance Dogs International, Inc. Assistance Dogs International, Inc. is a coalition of not for profit organizations that train and place Assistance Dogs. The purpose of ADI is to improve the areas of training, placement, and utilization of Assistance Dogs as well as staff and volunteer education.

    Because of the quality of the dogs (labs/ golden retrievers/ and mixes of the two) CCI only accepts 40% of the pups that they have been breeding for the last 30 years. This can cause a waitlist at times to be 2 years or more. My 5th pup, Benita, was place with an 8 yr old with Down Syndrome and my 6th pup, Davielle, was placed with a teenager who has Williams Syndrome causing her to have to be medicated to deal with the anxiety she experiences. With Davielle, she no longer needs the medication.

    When I read an article such as this I want to get in touch with the people who were scammed and tell them to contact CCI (www.cci.org). It may not be the right fit, but they will never know until they contact CCI.

    Thank you for your time –

    Jill Goldman
    Winnebago IL

    1. Hi Jill! I will pass this information on to the other Pepsi Pup families. Unfortunately, our daughter requires some balance help up and down stairs, and CCI does not appear to train for that. Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to us. ~Allison

      1. Actually, CCI trains for a wide range (including balance) of needs. The dogs are fitted with a special harness to help people with balance issues. I am just a puppy raiser so I can’t speak for CCI, but don’t dismiss them without contacting them. Thanks for passing on the word. When I read the article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune all I wanted to do was make sure the families knew that CCI exists. I know that the hurt is far deeper, it is the least I could do.

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