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BLOG Pups and Circumstance

Allison M Cooper
York Dispatch

Humans aren't the only ones donning their caps and gowns this month.

A  group of service dogs being trained primarily by prison inmates crossed the stage, so to speak, earlier this month when they graduated from their assistance dog training programs.

Inmates are chosen based on a number of criteria and the program is closely monitored by the organization. Prison life for the pups, according to the organization, involves living closely with the inmate handler (a backup inmate is also involved in case the primary handler cannot complete the program). The go to classes, rec and dining halls with their handlers. They sleep in the handlers "dormitory-like" room.

Each inmate that applies to be a puppy trainer must meet certain criteria in behavioral history and must make a 12-18 month commitment.

On the weekends, so the puppies can have a full range of life experiences, they stay with families and participate in errands and other family activities.

Public radio news program "Here and Now" has been following the story of Bailey, a "budding service dog raised by Massachusetts-based NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services) organization."

NEADS | Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans

According to NEADS, it "began the Prison PUP Partnership in 1998 at North Central Correctional Institution in Gardner, Massachusetts. NEADS currently has partnerships with 9 prisons in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. There are usually six to eight (and as many as 12) puppies in every facility. Each prison administration decides how many dogs it can house and raise comfortably. Most facilities designate a section of housing for the program where handlers are given single rooms to accommodate the inmate and puppy. Our current Prison PUP Partnerships (which are subject to change) include":

NEADS are trained by, and live with, prison inmates (under the expert guidance of professional dog trainers). The report calls it a "rigorous program at various prisons." Then, on weekends, the dogs go to families to continue their training.

When completed, they receive their certification and can begin a lifetime of purposeful work.

NEADS Service Dog Meets His Match

This adorable slideshow was a part of the 2016 NEADS graduation ceremony.