San Francisco SPCA Offers to Train Deaf Woman's Dog Over the Phone

A woman who obtained her assistance dog from the San Francisco SPCA several years ago has told SF Weekly that she was shocked that an SPCA trainer e-mailed her asking if her scheduled in-person refresher training session could instead be conducted over the phone. While dog-training over the phone is a novel concept, the kicker here is that Patricia Frieze is deaf — and the animal in question, Cragmont, is her hearing assistance dog.

“It was suggested … that I deal with her and Cragmont's issues via telephone,” Frieze told SF Weekly. “It is so impractical.”

The incident calls into question just what kind of services the SPCA is offering the graduates of its hearing dog program. Despite ostensibly shutting down the program in 2008, the SPCA prevailed in a court battle over a $500,000 behest by convincing a San Mateo judge that it still offered “Dog trainings and refresher sessions provided by a professional hearing dog trainer…” in the words of SPCA spokeswoman Tina Ahn. 

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