Friends for the Friendless

By BitcoDavid

What if there were a program that benefited the disabled community, cut down on prison recidivism, and rescued animals? Oh wait, there is. A number of states are now exploring programs where inmates can care for and train adopted service dogs.

Trainers and dogs in class
C.H.A.M.P. Assistance Dogs Inc.

In one example, C.H.A.M.P. Assistance Dogs Inc. has partnered with Missouri Department of Corrections and placed dogs at Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC), in Vandalia, Missouri. The dogs go from local shelters to an 8 to 10 week training program at the facility. There, these animals live with and accompany the women in their day to day activities while being trained in all aspects of life as a service dog. Staff members visit the prison once a week to evaluate the dogs. Successful inmates are rewarded with the opportunity to take on more dogs.

The Prison Pet Partnership of Tacoma, Washington has as their mission statement, one single sentence: Prison Pet Partnership enriches the lives of inmates, homeless animals and the community through the human-animal bond.

I got this quote off the Florida DOC‘s Web Site:

The dogs featured on this web site were trained for eight weeks at prisons in Florida by state inmates, who were themselves trained by a professional dog trainer, in the hopes that they may find gainful employment in animal services when released from prison. The dogs were taught how to sit, stay, come and walk to the left and slightly behind their owner. They are housebroken and crate trained, and have all their shots. They’ve been spayed or neutered and many are microchipped. Costs for the dogs range from $45 to $155 depending on program type, length of training and whether they were already spayed or neutered.

RumpyDog
RumpyDog

Florida actually has a number of programs in place, training both service dogs and companion animals. These programs are available to inmates of both genders, in facilities throughout the state. Colorado offers the training of companion animals that are not  service dogs through their prison industrialization program – CCI (Colorado Corrections Industries).

The success of these programs, for both the animals and the inmates is well documented. Besides the long known advantages afforded any individual by bonding with an animal, inmates may prove to be even better suited to working with abandoned animals. After all, who can understand what it’s like be unwanted, better than an inmate?

This kind of experience gives inmates a leg up in the world after their release, because they have developed a professional – and in demand – skill. It also teaches people who may have never had to provide care to another life, how to do so. But, perhaps the most important aspect of these programs, from the point of view of the inmate, is it provides a friend in a place where friendship is rare. Just knowing that somebody is tail-waggingly awaiting your return to your cell, may be just the morale boost required to turn a broken life around.

November 2013 — Prince Charming was donated to the program by an owner who no longer wanted him. He was a little on the obnoxious side. You see, he was not neutered when he came to the program. Neutering made Prince Charming a new dog. His new ability to concentrate soon sent Prince to the head of the class. He was adopted by an exceptional couple who resides in California. When he isn’t traveling all over the United States with his family, he is entertaining the kids in the park or nursing home with his large repetoire of tricks. Prince Charming now adds a new sparkle to the lives of nursing home residents. He has earned his licensed therapy dog title. — CCI

Group Photo Offender-Trainers
C.H.A.M.P. Assistance Dogs Inc.

The dogs don’t always go work in the outside world. Florida also has a program at the Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Center, revolving around Therapy Dog, Justice. The rescued Black Lab is used as a calming influence on troubled Teens, and time alone with Justice is offered as positive reinforcement. The program has been markedly successful. The HART Program at Wakulla CI, gives Heartworm positive dogs a place to recover and rehabilitate.

In researching this article, I was stunned by the number of programs of this nature, in operation today. That being said, I can’t think of anything more beneficial to all concerned, and have to wonder why there aren’t many, many more.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

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