Woman says she was sold blind service dog

By Louis Bolden - Investigative Reporter

Julia Fridrich was looking for a service animal, but instead says she got a disabled puppy after paying nearly $2,000.

Looking around Fridrich's home it's apparent she loves dogs. There are dog photos and key holders and on her mantle, memories of pets that have passed.  But dogs aren't just pets, they are also a necessity.

"Living with lupus and fibromyalgia, you deal with soreness and stiffness on a daily basis," Fridrich said. "I wanted a service dog that would help retrieve things."

Fridrich recently retired Yuki, her former service animal and was in need of another. She found Thorndale Collies on Facebook and says she told the owner her needs.

"She notified me that she had exactly what I was looking for," Fridrich said. "She made me feel good that my search was finally over."    
            
Fridrich traveled from Orlando to Merrill, Wisconsin to pick up her new puppy.

She paid more than $1,800 for her 9-week-old collie named Quinn, but shortly afterward, she said she knew something was wrong.

"I'm noticing I'm tossing little balls, and a 9-and-a-half week old puppy should be able to follow a little ball, and he wasn't able to," she said. "And he started running into the walls."

Fridrich took Quinn to a Veterinarian Ophthalmology Center in Orlando and got disturbing news. "As soon as the vet walked in he said, 'yeah this dog's got issues,'" she said.  "My heart just went boom."

The vet said Quinn had multiple issues, according to records. Quinn is blind in his right eye, and is at risk of losing his vision in the left, according to the report.

Quinn "can not be used as a service animal due to his severe vision impairment," according to the vet's report.

"I asked for a service dog," Fridrich said.  "I'm not getting what I need," she said

This is where the contractual problems start. While the breeder acknowledged in messages that Fridrich was looking for a service dog, when News 6 sifted through Fridrich's contract with the breeder, the contract only guarantees the dog as a pet.  

The dog is also guaranteed against any hereditary defects. If the dog develops a defect, "the seller agrees to replace it at no cost from a future litter," the contract states.  But the dog has to be returned to the seller, which created another problem.

After Quinn fell in the pool because she couldn't see it, Fredrich says she gave the puppy to a third party to be cared for.  It was a breach of contract. 

Attorney Steven Kramer says legally, situations can come down to who breached the contract first.

"It might have been the breeder that set up this chain of events that necessitated placing that dog into safe care," Kramer said.

News 6 contacted the breeder.  Vickie Vonseggern reiterated what the contract states: "The dog was sold as a family pet and she (Fridrich) violated the contract that states the dog is to come back to me if for any reason the owner can not take care of it," she said over the phone.

While Vonseggern was not contractually obligated to, after News 6 got involved, she agreed to refund Fridrich the $1,800 she paid for the pet.

Florida does have a lemon law for dogs to protect consumers. However, it would not have helped in this case because the dog was purchased in Wisconsin.

For those in need of a service animal there are many ways to go about getting one online, including New Horizons Service Dogs and Service Dogs of Florida.

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