Prison Pups Program Helps Train Service Animals While Providing Comfort to Inmates

Pets are a wonderful source of comfort and service. But did you know that some of them have also done time? Not for crimes, of course, but through the Prison Pup program.

The first type of these programs was started in 1981 by Sister Pauline Quinn in the state of Washington. Since then, various Prison Pup programs have been very successful in pairing inmates with assistance dogs in training. The dogs enter the prison enclosures in order to be raised before their final training as assistant dogs. Inmates are walked through training by the dog trainers before they are paired up with a puppy, and not just anyone can be chosen to be part of the Prison Pup program. Thorough background checks are performed, and the inmate needs to show a high level of maturity, willingness, and a clean discipline record.

Program participants at Coffee Creek Correctional Center

Jails to Jobs

While the goal of the program is to help speed up the training process for service animals, the program also provides inmates with a sense of responsibility and trust, knowing that the dogs will be integrated into the community. Plus, puppies are a great source of comfort for those who are doing time. “I suffer from severe depression. [Arby] gives me a reason to get up in the morning. He’s a rescue, but he rescues me everyday,” said inmate Deborah to The Bark.

Prisoners training dogs

Huffington Post

One dog, Quinn, is a fourteen-year-old Golden Retriever who passed through the Maine Prison Pup program. Currently, Quinn resides in Massachusetts at the Birchwood Inn, and is a service animal for her owner Ellen Chenaux. The duo was paired up through the Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans program (NEADS), a non-profit program established in 1976. Since its founding, the program has trained 1500 service dogs for such services as deaf and hearing loss, combat veterans, classroom, and therapy, among others. More importantly, ten different prisons throughout the New England area help in training the assistance dogs; and prisons have been working in conjunction with the program since 1998.

Quinn, residing at her home in Lenox, MA

ABC News

Chenaux developed late-onset adult deafness, and needed a service animal to notify her of such things as the smoke detector, alarm, stove timer, etc. Unfortunately, as Quinn also aged she developed slight hearing problems, and so has become more of a host and housekeeper around the inn. Chenaux describes Quinn’s presence around the inn as comforting, helping to create a “warm, welcoming place”. The fact that the inn is pet-friendly also appeals to those guests who are traveling with pets.

Source: ABC News

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