The Dog Inmate Bond
Puppies learn — and teach — good behavior in prison training programs.
Nona Kilgore Bauer |
Posted: Tue May 29 00:00:00 PDT 2001
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The Friends for Folks program is run by Sgt. Jack Cottrell, one of the guards. He and inmates train stray, abandoned and abused dogs from local animal shelters to become companions.
Launched in 1990, Friends for Folks trains 35 to 40 dogs a year for people who apply to adopt them. Inmates must have six months to one year of good conduct to qualify as trainers. Cottrell screens them thoroughly, as he does potential adopters and dogs. He prefers dogs that are 1 to 4 years old and under 20 pounds. At that size, they live more easily with inmates in small cells, which Stephen calls their "house."
"It was hard to cope with the responsibility of caring for a dog, but Susie made me want to do that." Stephen said. She also helped him deal with his emotions. "You can't show any emotion out in the yard; if you do, they think you're weak. But I can go back to my house and get with my dog and cry with it and hold it and love it."
Friends for Folks also offers a 30-day high-intensity dog-obedience training course for the public, and those training fees help fund the prison program. These dogs also live with their inmate trainers.
Dogs in both programs spend two days a week in a kennel to give the inmates and dogs a break from each other, but each trainer must continue the care and training of his dog every day.
Friends for Folks has brought the prison peace, Cottrell said. "In my 20 years in the corrections system, I've never seen a program more beneficial to prisoners or the prison."
The most evident benefit is reduced violence and more-productive, cooperative prisoners.
Pilot Dogs Inc., a gu ide-dog training school in Columbus, Ohio, discovered the value of prison-raised puppies in 1992. Twenty of the state's 29 prisons raise puppies for its program.
Pups arrive at 8 to 10 weeks and live with inmates until they are 12 to 14 months old. Once the pups are housetrained, prison staff members can take them home overnight once or twice a month for outside exposure to children, different animals and neighborhoods.
Not only must puppy raisers have a good-conduct record, Pilot Dogs training coordinator Jennifer Brennan said, but they also must have at least 1½ years to serve so they can be with the pups during their entire stay.
"We stress lots of time off leash to allow the pups to play with their siblings and just be dogs," Brennan said. Experienced inmates help guide new raisers.Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
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