November 11, 2009- Source: USA Today
Inmates at the state prison at Otisville, N.Y. are training Puppies Behind Bars to work as aides for disabled veterans. Presently, the program has trained 600 puppies of which 350 are working. To qualify an inmate must learn veterinary care, keep a journal, and be an assistant to a primary trainer for at least 6 months before he gets his own puppy. Of the 600 inmates, 19 are part of the program currently training 11 dogs. Each dog has a 24 hour trainer while the others provide backup. The dogs are trained in more than 80 commands – turning on lights, call 911, guard etc. It costs $26,000 to train, raise, and place each dog. The program is funded by private donors and grants from non-profit organizations. A donor can name the dog and receive progress reports from the inmate. It is a 2 year commitment by the inmate. The program provides a therapy for both inmates and veterans. A professional trainer oversees the program and makes weekly visits to see how each dog is progressing.