Program Matches Inmates With Service Dogs In-Training And Changes Lives

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Most associations can only hope to have half the success of VetDogs, but this program alone changes three different sets of lives: veterans, prisoners and service dogs.

 

inmates_service_dogs_veterans_1Source: TODAY

 

What started in 2003 as a side project for the Guide Dog Foundation has become it's own entity.

 

The need for service dogs for veterans has dramatically increased in the past few years. Faster than they could keep up with, so instead of making them wait longer, they came up with a new solution.

 

The program matches inmates at one of 12 participating prisons on the East Coast with a five-month-old guide dog puppy.

 

inmates_service_dogs_veterans_4Source: TODAY

 

The inmates are specially chosen based on their disciplinary record, sentence and crime committed.

 

At Enfield Medium Security Correctional Facility, 600 of the 720 prisoners applied to be a part of the program, and only 10 are chosen.

 

These inmates spend almost 24 hours a day with their canine companions, training them and caring for them.

 

inmates_service_dogs_veterans_3Source: TODAY

 

Enfield correctional counselor Joe Timbro told TODAY:

 

It really helps the inmates with patience and problem-solving skills. A lot of these guys don't know how to process their emotions, or they've never had to care for something like a dog before, so this teaches them those skills.

 

The fact that they can spend so much time with the dogs means that the training goes much quicker. Instead of two to five years, they are done with training in one, dramatically increasing the number of veterans who get their service animals.

 

The handlers who help with the training also receive numerous benefits. An inmate named Tyrel described the impact it's had on his self-esteem:

 

Being given the opportunity to — and being entrusted with a dog, to train and to work with other people, it makes you feel good, and it makes you see that you can be given another opportunity.

 

inmates_service_dogs_veterans_2Source: TODAY

 

Enfield has an 85% rate of re-incarceration after prisoners get released, but for those in the VetDogs program, that number drops to 25%.

 

Mark Tyler, who runs the training program at Enfield explained:

 

(The dog) doesn’t care what that person did in the past. He doesn’t make those judgments. He cares who they are today. Is he honest today? Is he trustworthy? Does he keep that puppy safe? I think because (the dog) doesn’t pass those judgments, that type of relationship is likely one that is very valued at a prison.

 

Thanks to this program, which is entirely funded by donations and grants, veterans get a new lease on life, where they feel protected and comforted.

 

Source: TODAY

 

Animals changing numerous lives, one at a time.

 

To help support the VetDog program you can donate to them, here.

 

Watch the full video about the organization below:

 

 

H/t: TODAY

 

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