Inmates are in Fishkill Correctional Facility,NY. The dogs sleep with the inmates, in the cell in a crate.
A program that helps both prison inmates and returning military vets, Puppies Behind Bars is a not for profit organization that trains prison inmates to raise service dogs. One program within the “Puppies Behind Bars” organization is called “DogTags.” Under the DogTags program, inmates train puppies to become service dogs for soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. During their training the puppies live in prison with their incarcerated trainers. As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society, rather than take from it.
The program currently places a total of 80 dogs in seven prisons in the three states of the New York region at both men’s and women’s prisons. The puppies, all Labs and Goldens, arrive at the prisons at about eight weeks of age and live with the inmates until they are 20 weeks old. They live in crates in the cells and learn 82 commands before they are ready for their next level of training. Since the dogs don’t know the difference between a prisoner and a model citizen, they help the prisoners as well, responding to kindness, firmness, patience, and consistency.
Veteran Sgt. Allen Hill with his service dog Frankie.
Many of the dogs will eventually be given free of charge to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are themselves confined — to wheelchairs or to navigating life with a missing limb or two. The program is trying to make veterans more aware of the dogs’ availability. In addition to training dogs to help returning veterans, the inmates also work to train drug and bomb sniffing dogs, guide dogs, and other dog helpers.
In addition to the article on Puppies Behind Bars, check out Glenn Close’s interview with military veteran, Sgt. Allen Hill. It’s an awesome story and a great cause!