RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Since CBS 17 broke the story a month ago, more and more families and former employees are coming forward to share their experience with Apex non-profit Ry-Con Service Dogs.
Families across the country say their kids are brokenhearted and stuck with what they say are untrained dogs, while they’re left with empty pockets.
One Raleigh family hasn’t given up on their Ry-Con dog yet.
Katelyn Ranheim, 12, is holding on to hope that with more training, love, and attention, her dog Boone could become the service dog she always dreamed of.
“I have always been that person that loves independence because that’s just kind of who I am and I just saw service dogs change lives of kids and I wanted that,” said Ranheim.
Katelyn Ranheim has cerebral palsy, so she struggles with stability and balance. Her family raised more than $14,000 to get her a service dog from Ry-Con.
“All my friends were super excited and so many people helped us and we didn’t get the dog we wanted,” Ranheim said.
The family believes Ry-Con Service Dogs owner Mark Mathis purposely took advantage of them.
“I gave him the benefit of the doubt for a really long time, but now I absolutely believe it was just a con all along,” said Katelyn’s mother, Deanna Ranheim.
The family says they went home with a completely untrained dog and instead of helping Katelyn balance, the dog knocked her over.
“Not only did he take advantage of my family and other families, but he took a part of so many kids and they’re never gonna get that back and I don’t think I’m gonna get that back unless I get the dog I wanted,” Katelyn said as she struggled to hold back her tears.
The Ranheim family says they have now spent the past several months re-training Boone.
“We’ve only spent about $220 so far because she’s given us a deal on the puppy classes, but going forward it’s $110 an hour for a consultation, so we’re looking at quite a bit more money.”
Katelyn’s mother says at first she didn’t think Boone could ever be a service dog, but he’s making some progress.
“He was scared of everything; growling, barking and in the two months that he’s been home he’s seemed to overcome some of the trauma that he endured and he’s doing better, but we still have a lot of training to do,” said Deanna Ranheim.
The family says they were hesitant to tell their story, but they want Mathis to be held accountable for the pain he’s caused so many people.
“We are not in support of Mark and when Katelyn’s picture was shown on another news channel with a headline saying we were supporting him, we got pretty upset because we did not support him at all,” said Deanna. “We don’t support anything he did and so we really want our story to be told truthfully.”
The North Carolina Attorney General has received 50 complaints against Ry-Con. The investigation is ongoing.
The Ranheim family says they would like to get their money back, but they aren’t getting their hopes up.