Our family has been blessed with some wonderful news that I just have to share. Karen Shirk of 4 Paws For Ability continues her magic, stepping up and filling the void where Lea Kaydus (Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism), Pepsi and Global Giving failed. 4 Paws For Ability has once again offered fully funded, fully trained Autism Service Dogs to our family. Please see the post at Mommy Rambles. Simply AMAZING!! Thank you!! We are now looking to raise funds to cover the travel costs from our home to the 4 Paws Training Center in Ohio.
Over on the RIGHT side of the web page is the ChipIn! button to help us in our effort.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF WHAT HAS HAPPENED
In April 2011 Lea Kaydus, founder of the Siberian Snow Babies’ Animals for Autism program self-published a press release on PR Log. The press release announced “Animals for Autism will be placing, free of charge, a highly-trained autism service animal with a child or an adult with an ASD who is in need.” Their board and panel of experts were to evaluate all of the applications and make a decision. I can only imagine the number of responses this press release generated. I know that it caught my family’s attention.
Reading over their web site (http://siberiansnowbabies.com/animals_for_autism) we were told that Lea Kaydus had over 25 years of experience training animals, was a Master Trainer, and also had a daughter on the Autism Spectrum. Their organization worked almost solely with Siberian Huskies as this was the breed Lea Kaydus knew from prior experience in the show ring. The final costs to applicant families were kept low by securing funding/donations for the dog, food, supplies and medical care prior to beginning the placement process. The applicant would only pay for training fees at a greatly reduced price of $5/hour. For most families this would amount between $5,000 – $8,000.
In April Animals for Autism’s acceptance into the Pepsi Refresh Project was announced on their Facebook page. Their proposed project was to fund the placement of 10 additional Autism Service Dogs. The community was entreated to Vote. Not only themselves but their friends, family, acquaintances, and anyone who might listen. We were told that Power Votes would be the key – and there were many families receiving daily batches of Power Vote codes (some as many as 60 codes/day) from Lea Kaydus. In the end Lea Kaydus amassed enough votes to be within the top 10 and was granted her $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project.
Shortly afterwards Lea Kaydus stopped providing any updates at all, she stopped responding to questions and the families began to look a little closer at this organization they thought was going to help them. They discovered that the organization was not really an organization at all. There was no record of Animals for Autism as a business entity in Illinois at all. Neither Animals for Autism nor Siberian Snow Babies was registered as a 501c(3) non-profit with the IRS. Lea Kaydus was not registered in the state of Illinois as a licensed kennel operator, or a licensed dog dealer. When families contacted the Springfield Autism Resource Center to verify Lea Kaydus’ claims of being the Acting Finance Director they were told SPARC did not know Ms. Kaydus. The pictures that Lea Kaydus sent to the families of their “service dogs in training” were fraudulent. The pictures were all taken back in 2007. They were most definitely not taken in March, 2011 of 6 week-old puppies. The whole Siberian Snow Babies web site disappeared and Lea Kaydus refused to reply to any emails from the families. When the families contacted Pepsi and GlobalGiving.org seeking some assistance they were assured that all was well and it must just be a personal issue. GlobalGiving.org continues to insist that Lea Kaydus can and will deliver on schedule. The Facebook page for Animals for Autism maintained by Lea Kaydus was removed. Pepsi defers to GlobalGiving.org in this matter.
It would appear that Lea Kaydus does not have any verifiable credentials as a dog trainer. She has been incapable of producing a recent picture of any of the “service animals in training” or any pictures/video of any of the “training sessions.” Globalgiving.org Grant Administrators KC Ellis and Linda Oatley went to Glenarm, IL and conducted a “site visit” but did not take any pictures due to “privacy concerns.” Lea Kaydus has refused requests by media photographers to take photographs for the families.
Lea Kaydus ignored all requests from the Better Business Bureau of Central IL and earned her “organization” an ‘F’ rating. She relocated her “organization” from Tallula, IL to Glenarm, IL and did not provide a forwarding address. She is under investigation by the Office of the Attorney General of Illinois. She attempted to avoid requests for information from their office.
Lea Kaydus set out to defraud many families. It began before the Pepsi Refresh Project grant came into the picture. Once GlobalGiving.org “certified” Lea Kaydus through their due diligence process they handed her an large unearned amount of credibility. After all, Pepsi would not just hand out $50,000 to someone who is a SCAM. But that is EXACTLY what they did. Now they do not want to lose face, and are unwilling to admit they have made a mistake. So instead they have chosen to drag the families, who had initially placed so much trust in Lea Kaydus, and then Pepsi and GlobalGiving.org, through the mud. These families have been called troublemakers and freeloaders among other things. All because they dared say that there was a problem, that maybe they had made a mistake in supporting Lea Kaydus. They asked for the GlobalGiving.org to take a closer look at the “organization” they were granting $50,000. The families were told that there was nothing to worry about. That GlobalGiving.org was “honored” to work with an individual such as Lea Kaydus.
The families have been given the cold shoulder with Pepsi and GlobalGiving.org waiting for it all to die down. Lea Kaydus has removed all traces of her “organization” from the internet, and left no forwarding address with the post office. The only remaining way to contact her is through her cell phone. That phone number can be found in screenshots in other posts on this site and also on various posts on Making Waves.
Consider signing the petition started at Change.org by Allison Creighton for Pepsi/GlobalGiving.org to stop funding this backyard breeder/puppy mill. It will only take but a moment of your time and has the potential to accomplish much good.
Visit their Facebook page and ask them to stop backing this “program”
If you have a little more time please consider writing to the founders of GlobalGiving.org
Mari Kuraishi, Co-Founder and President or Dennis Whittle, Co-Founder
1023 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 232-5784
Toll Free: (877) 605-2314
Fax: (202) 315-2558
Please pass this story around. With YOUR help, it will make a difference. Not necessarily in the lives of these children but possibly the ones who are not hurt by a poorly trained “service dog” from Lea Kaydus.