Service Dog Program Helps Veterans In and Out of Prison

Western Correctional Institute, located in Maryland, may be making history, according to a feature in The Huffington Post. While several programs nationwide use inmates to train service dogs (a growing trend), Western Correctional may be the first that uses imprisoned veterans for their program, which provides dogs to other veterans in need. The program is unique in that it provides incarcerated veterans a way to help other vets returning home, a concept that is seemingly the first of its kind.

Dogs Help PrisonersThe dogs, provided by America’s VetDogs of Smithtown, New York, are spending 14 months at Western Correctional, learning service-oriented tasks the likes of working light switches and retrieving objects from the prisoners they are paired with, inmates who have been carefully chosen based on a certain set of criteria including not having a record of child or animal abuse.

According to those quoted in the Huffington Post piece, the dogs spend roughly 90 percent of their time training, as they are immersed in the job at hand for most of the day. There is some recreational time, and the dogs receive further socialization and training outside the prison walls by being paired with local families where they experience shopping malls, normal household chaos, and other everyday situations.

The program is a true win-win for all involved. While the inmates help the dogs prepare for their next role assisting veterans, the dogs help provide a sense of normalcy that these prisoners wouldn’t have otherwise. The dogs truly help change the lives of the incarcerated for the better.

What are your thoughts on this unique prison dog program? Do you think it is a good idea for inmates to train service dogs? Tell us in a comment.