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Appeal denied, service dog will not be returned to Utah man

By Viviane Vo-Duc  |  Posted Feb 25th, 2011 @ 5:24pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — A man who had his companion dog taken away will not be getting him back any time soon.

Dr. Gael Yonnet’s service dog Elon was taken away a month ago by Canine Companions for Independence — the organization that partnered him with the yellow Labrador retriever.

At the time, the organization said Yonnet’s lifestyle and job were endangering the dog because he didn't keep Elon on a leash, especially on trips to the mountains.


You repeatedly allowed Elon to be off lead in unenclosed and urban environments, which is a serious safety concern for CCI.

–Letter from CCI to Yonnet


Yonnet presented an iPetition with more than 5,000 Utahns supporting the dog's return.

You can read his full appeal letter HERE.

In a letter sent to Yonnet, Corey Hudson, CEO of CCI, said after reviewing the details of the case the staff had good reason to believe Elon’s safety was in jeopardy and to take the dog back.

“You repeatedly allowed Elon to be off lead in unenclosed and urban environments, which is a serious safety concern for CCI.” Hudson said. 

He also said Yonnet was very confrontational and, at one time, had a electronic collar on Elon, which was a serious breach of CCI's standards for treatment of its dogs.

Yonnet said he understood their concern, especially after hearing the dog was not on a leash at all times. But he claims Elon was never in danger.

Yonnet can appeal the decision to the national board of Canine Companions for Independence, which he plans to do.

Elon is currently being taken care of by a foster family, which Yonnet says doesn’t make sense.

“He doesn’t need a loving foster home,” he said. “What he needs is his loving home, his own family, which is me.”

In March of 2006, Yonnet had a snowboarding accident, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

He said Elon was trained to assist him with tasks, such as switching lights on and off, retrieving objects from the floor and opening doors.

While he has been offered another service dog from a different organization, Yonnet says he just wants his “baby” back.

E-mail: vvo-duc@ksl.com

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