BILLINGS, Mont. -
KULR-8 first met the Miano family over the summer when they were raising money so they could get a service dog for Riley, a young girl with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and heightened anxiety.Â
But as the Miano’s prepare to welcome the newest member of their family,Â major complications have arisen. In an effort to be transparent with the community who has supported them on their journey, the family is sharing their story.
After months of waiting,Â organizing numerous fundraisers with local businesses,Â and paying thousands of dollars,Â the Miano family was ready to pick up their new service dog, Bridger.
That is until they got anÂ email from Mark Mathis,Â President of Ry-Con,Â a non-profit service dog training organization located in North CarolinaÂ that was training and housing Bridger. The email states that the non-profit is ceasing operations immediately and closing down their kennel by the end of the month.Â
The email says in part: “We take pride in the many successful placements Ry-Con has made over the past several years and in the current dogs in our program, but were forced to recognize that our brand has suffered from issues with accounts receivables, and a select number of recently returned dogs and the unfortunate response that followed.”
Stacie Miano, Riley’s mom, said she receivedÂ the e-mail the week they were leaving to pick up Bridger. The family was supposed to spend the followingÂ week at the training facility, training with the dogÂ and learning how to handle it.Â
SheÂ soon found herself in panic because sheÂ didn’t know what it meant for her family.Â
In the days following the email,Â another Ry-Con customer picked up Bridger at Stacie’s request, along withÂ three other dogs.
The rescuer sent aÂ video of Bridger to Stacie after he was removed from Ry-Con,Â and what the Miano’s saw only made them more concerned. Stacie had the woman take Bridger to the vet who reported the dog was in less than optimal condition.
“Some of the documents we got from the vetÂ says that he was showing aggression and growling and nipping at the attendees in the back vet room,” she said. “The vet even told meÂ he can’t stay for long periods of time, he’s scared, he’s skittish. The vet saidÂ ‘that’s not a service dog.'”
The concern goes beyond having a recognized service dog, the MianoÂ family is on a time crunch. Stacie’s husband, Jacob, accepted a government contract in Japan,Â and the family is preparing to move overseas next month.
The matter is now a question of whether to take a dog that’s not trained and possibly get it trained in Japan, or to not take the dog at all because it’s showing signs of aggression.
We spoke to Mark Mathis, Owner and Operator of Ry-Con,Â who says this was an unexpected turn of events.Â
“The business has become simply unsustainable,” he said. “I’m very very unhappy about that,Â very sorry for the families and very much wanting to do right by them.”
The Miano’s are at a loss,Â but they feel responsible for more than just their little family. They feel they’re in debt to the Billings community whoÂ helped them in their time of need.
“IÂ just feel bad cause all these people helped us get a dog that we may or may not take,” she said. “But if IÂ don’t take the dog,Â then IÂ don’t know how to reimburse these people who helped us.”
We will continue to follow this story in the coming days as the Miano family makes the tough decision on what to do with Bridger.