Inmates train puppies to be assistance dogs

Many of us see service dogs when out shopping, buying groceries, or eating out but you might be surprised some of them get trained in prison.

"They sleep in a crate at night, and during the day we leave it open and we train with them," said inmate Donea Lewis.

Several inmates are part of the puppy program at Folsom Women's Facility prison.

The program is funded through an organization called Canine Companions for Independence. Once the puppies graduate from training, they'll be assistance dogs.

"We put in the application and there's a strict screening process so you can't be in any trouble,” said inmate Erin Boetzer. “Certain crimes you can't be part of the program.”

Most of the dogs come to the prison at five months and learn 30 commands. They stay for about 13 months before they go out and get additional training.

"I've lived a pretty selfish life, self-centered and it gives me the ability to care about something that's going to benefit somebody else besides me," said inmate Regina Divine.

There's also a reason why organizers say prison is a good place to train puppies.

"It is great for the dogs, because we have someone here with them 24/7, really 24/7, so while the puppy raisers on the outside might do different things," said president of local chapter of Canine Companions Cris Gerard.

Unfortunately, not all dogs will go on to graduate.

"If they don't make it, we call those dogs Change in Career dogs,” Gerard said. “That means your dog has decided this is not the career for them. They would like to do something else."

The Change in Career dogs go up for adoption but there is a two year waiting list.

(© 2016 KXTV)


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