Scientology-linked drug rehab centre sued over $150,000 sniffer dog bills

Tom Cowie
The Age
April 4, 2017

A private security company that provided round-the-clock sniffer dogs to a secretive drug rehabilitation facility linked to the Church of Scientology is suing over more than $150,000 in unpaid debts.

The company, Australian K9 Detection Unit, lodged a writ in the County Court last week, claiming the secluded Narconon rehab centre in the Yarra Valley stopped paying bills racked up from the daily use of a narcotics dog and handler in late 2015.

The controversial international drug rehabilitation program Narconon was founded in 1966 and is based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the creator of the Church of Scientology.

The program has drawn criticism for its focus on detoxing from drugs through the heavy use of saunas. It has operated at O’Shannessy Lodge in Warburton East since 2001.

Court documents show Australian K9 Detection Unit began providing sniffer dogs and handlers to the Narconon program, which was also run under the name Get Off Drugs Naturally, in October 2013.

Sniffer dogs were on site at Narconon seven days a week between 6pm and midnight, according to court documents, with extra late-night services provided on Friday and Saturday.

The unit was also stationed at the 48-bed centre for family visiting day on Sunday afternoons.

The security company provided “student control”, according to a statement of claim lodged in court, which involved regular sweeps of the facility to ensure drugs were not brought on to the premises.

A photo posted on social media shows employees with a German Shepherd outside the facility.

The security company claims the centre fell behind in payments in late 2015.

But dogs were still being provided until July 31 last year after the centre assured the plaintiff it would pay up “once a large donation was received”.

Australian K9 Detection Unit is seeking $158,767.75 that it claims is still outstanding, plus late fees. Small weekly payments of between $500 and $2000 were still being made by the centre when the action was lodged, the writ said.

The writ was filed against the Association for Better Living and Education, an offshoot of the Church of Scientology, as well as the previous secretary and executive directors of Get Off Drugs Naturally.

The program was investigated by Consumer Affairs Victoria in 2015 and subsequently fined after claiming on its website that it had a high success rate of curing drug addiction with detox treatments.

Clients are charged about $30,000 for a six-to-nine-month stay, as well as $260 weekly fees for board.

Association for Better Living and Education was blocked by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in 2015 from opening a new centre in central Warburton after more than a year of intense community opposition.

In the decision, VCAT ruled the residential site was an inappropriate location for the centre, due to the program’s insufficient security and management regime.

The objectors cited 26 police callouts to the centre since 2005, including an incident in which a student threatened staff with an axe, a psychotic offender threatened to kill and an offender detoxing from heroin and ice harassed neighbours.

According to its website, Australian K9 Detection Unit also provides bomb detection dogs for government and private companies, including music concerts.

The company’s CEO declined to comment on the case on Tuesday. Get Off Drugs Naturally was contacted for comment.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/scientologylinked-drug-rehab-centre-sued-over-150000-sniffer-dog-bills-20170404-gvd8en.html

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