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Danger, Will Robinson – Pepsi Pups Mess

As both Global Giving and Pepsi continue to turn their backs to the concerns being raised from all sides of the service dog community and the autism community, I would like to point out a few things.
Dogs are not robots. Even with the best training, they are living creatures who can and do act in unpredictable ways.
When this bite occurs, John Q Public is not going to think to themselves “Oh, that’s right, Global Giving changed the terms of the grant to only cover a building and supplies, therefore they are not in any way responsible.”
Nope. What John Q Public is going to think is, “OMG! Did you hear that one of those Pepsi Pups bit a child? How could Pepsi have let this happen? Do you remember how all those people tried to warn Pepsi? Why didn’t anyone listen! Those Pepsi Pups are dangerous!”
Below is another open letter sent to both Pepsi and Global Giving, once again trying to highlight the danger.

This will be my last post sent to employees of Global Giving and Pepsi to get them to you in my month long attempt to get them to reverse their decision to give an individual with a sparse and poor track record with training dogs for service work and no specific training or organizational support for this role a $50,000 grant to create ten autism assistance dog placements with a single litter of Siberian Husky puppies for less than half true cost. Creating a boycott is my next plan, although I didn’t want it to come to this, as it seems a negative way to approach a problem that requires enlightenment on your end, not capitulation, but my attempts to find someone reasonable and reasonably powerful in your companies is proving impossible.

I’ve tried hard to explain to both of your companies that this is a dangerous concept (“idea”), that it should not have passed the initial due diligence stage of this grant as it puts children with autism at risk, and that a bite to a child is a very real danger posed by the execution of this poorly conceived “idea”.

I’ve passed along to you opinions from the experts in this field, who agree with me of the danger in this ill conceived and executed “idea.” Karen Shirk has been in the field of creating autism assistance dogs placements for thirteen years, and she is the first to offer this type of placement in the United States (her letter to you about this is included below, followed by the link to a report in the New York Times on both the benefit as well as the risk associated with partnering a child with a social, emotional or educational challenge with a canine companion). I’ve been in this field for a solid decade and you know how I feel; Charlie Petrizzo has been in the field nearly as long and his own letter follows Karen’s…

I’ve spoken to you all as if you were one person, in my attempt to find that one person in your respective companies who has both the power of reason and compassion as well as the power to change course on this dangerous concept before it continues to expand to include vulnerable children. To date, the only real tragedy has been the ten children with autism and their parents who are disappointed that they have not yet received their assistance dogs, or had a visit with their puppies in training, or even received a valid photo of them…all along I’ve been operating under the assumption that the true nature of the danger here goes beyond their disappointment, to what will happen if your help and funding allows this individual to actually deliver ten half grown, poorly socialized Siberian Huskies into the homes of ten families of children with autism who do not fully understand the danger here because they trust you with the safety of their vulnerable children. Your marketing has been very powerful in convincing people that you really do care about children and families, but your actions fly in the face of this assumption.

I spoken to the people in charge at Global Giving of the concept of due diligence and how they did not perform this adequately. In their defense, I believe this person did not set out to create a dangerous situation, but their stunning lack of knowledge about this emerging field caused them to make a dangerous mistake. Making mistakes is something that can be forgiven when the course is changed upon discovery by way of new information concerning the nature of the mistake, but failing to admit responsibility and cease to cause danger to children once you see it there is both immoral and against the law; no fancy contract has the power protect you here. The person I spoke with seemed to think a contract that states that they can switch the idea from creating ten autism assistance dog placements to building this individual a kennel to allow you to absolve your two companies and all people involved from the responsibility should any children be bitten or harmed in the future by this individual’s work with these children.

Because you clearly failed to do your due diligence, you will be responsible should any harm come to any of the children served by this individual who won the $50,000 and will be working with the Siberian Huskies she will be raising in the the kennel you are providing her with…having this building meet the building codes is the least of your worries here…

You have heard me, and tomorrow I will take every word I’ve written and mail several packages to the heads of both your companies that require signatures to be 100% diligent in doing my work of informing you all of the danger at hand…

Global Giving and Pepsi are still promising a springtime delivery of ten adolescent Siberian Husky dogs to the ten children with autism in question. They are not allowing the questions (below) to be answered that would assure them of the safety of this endeavor, and the two companies are threatening to simply replace any family who drops out with a new, less informed family.

My question to you is, who is going to take full responsibility, both financially and morally speaking, should one of these Siberian Husky dogs bite or kill one of the children with autism that they will be working with?

This question is not rhetorical, and on behalf of the ten families of children with autism that will receive a half grown, poorly socialized Siberian Husky to work closely with their child with autism, I demand an answer.


Patty Dobbs Gross
Executive Director
North Star Foundation
We help children find their way.

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