Owner of Raleigh service dog supplier is 'devastated' by the way things ended

Posted January 30, 2019 5:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2020 4:51 p.m. EST

— The owner of a Raleigh company that trained service dogs and recently closed its doors said Wednesday that he is devastated by the way things ended.

Mark Mathis started Ry-Con nine years ago after getting a trained service dog for one of his sons, who has autism. He said the nonprofit never had any trouble until financial difficulties forced its closure in November.

Since then, more than 40 families have filed complaints with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office against Ry-Con.

Rebecca Peluso, a Florida woman, said she paid Ry-Con $9,600 for a service dog to help calm her 6-year-old daughter, Ella, who was diagnosed with autism, and help keep her safe.

"It's horrible. He didn't just take our money, he stole hopes and dreams," said Peluso.

Mathis said he also feels horrible about what happened.

"We weren't able to take in enough money to support the business long term or any further," he said.

Mathis said he's trained and placed more than 100 dogs.

"I would be hard pressed to look back at these nine years and call anything of what we accomplished a failure," he said. "We were able to change so many lives."

Some families agreed.

In an email to WRAL News, Whitney Reynolds said her son's dog Cosette is a "blessing."

"She is very well-trained and performs her job beautifully. Having her has changed our son's life, has positively impacted our entire family," Reynolds said.

Melinda Amberson says her family had challenges with her son's dog, Callie, but Mathis helped them work through it.

"We watched our son's life change before our eyes because of a dog that is furiously devoted to him," she said.

Mathis says he is cooperating with Attorney General's Office investigation and hopes to pay back the money his clients lost.

"I feel devastated. I feel terrible," he said. "I think some of these families are going to be asking about how we're going to make things right for them financially, which I know is important and is important.”

Last week, Attorney General Josh Stein called the complaints against Ry-Con "deeply troubling" and said his office is investigating the company.

"You spend $12,000, $13,000, $14,000, and it turns out that dog is not a service animal, isn't even house-trained sometimes and, on occasion, bit the child they're supposed to be taking care of. You would be absolutely devastated," Stein said.

Mathis said his dogs were generally in training for 18 months, including helping with the transition into the home.