SAN DIEGO - San Diego's most famous therapy dog lost his certification and his therapy team partner is furious.
Chopper the Biker Dog has visited thousands of people in hospitals, schools and senior living centers up and down the West Coast. Chopper has been certified by Pet Partners since he began working as a therapy dog five years ago.
His therapy partner and owner, Mark Shaffer, said he learned Pet Partners suspended Chopper's certification after the two returned from an 11-day trip to Eugene, Oregon. They stopped at VA hospitals and police departments every day along the trip.
"Disbelief," said Shaffer. "There was anger and there was a lot of hurt."
Chopper the Biker Dog has visited thousands of people in hospitals, schools and senior living centers up and down the...
Pet Partners told Shaffer the certification was suspended because it did not approve of Chopper's biker outfit. Chopper wears a leather vest and a bandana.
"They claim they don't allow dogs in costumes. This is not a costume," explained Shaffer. "This is his persona. This is what he is."
Pet Partners sent 10News the same statement it posted on Chopper's Facebook page:
"While we recognize that many pet owners enjoy costuming their pets at home and even in public settings, particularly around many holiday events, the use of costumes and clothing in an animal-assisted therapy environment raises a number of concerns for the animal, the handler and the clients or patients being seen … Pet Partners harbors no ill will towards motorcycle enthusiasts. Holiday costumes, tutus or clothing other than a scarf are also not allowed. We wish Mark and Chopper all the best and hope that they will continue to bring smiles to the people they meet. Mark did receive written warning to correct the behavior before the suspension to follow the appropriate protocol. He is free to dress Chopper as he pleases, just not while volunteering at facilities as a therapy animal team."
Chopper has received overwhelming support on his Twitter and Facebook pages.
Shaffer said he will seek certification from another organization.