Service dogs are the most sought after, valued helpmates a disabled person could hope to have in their lives. Because dogs conduct a variety of work successfully, demand for service dogs outstrips the ability to raise, train and place them. Many organizations around the country work with volunteer puppy-raisers to provide dogs for work in bomb detection, law enforcement, and as service dogs to veterans and others.
A veterinarian in Florida, Dr Thomas Lane, first thought prison inmates would do a good job training Guide Dogs for the blind. Inmate puppy-raisers were trusted with an eight-week-old life. Along the way they learned patience, love, teamwork – some of the traits needed to stem recidivism. So who trains the inmates to properly work with the puppies? To find out, we took a look at Puppies Behind Bars, not only because they have a good story, they have a record of success.
Service Dogs Start-Up
Gloria Gilbert Stoga, President, started Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) in 1997 after Gloria adopted Arrow, a Labrador Retriever who had been released from the Guide Dog program for medical reasons. Gloria did her research on the special breeding program, care and training of guide dogs, and she had come to a decision. Dogs can be the catalyst for changing people’s lives, and that is what Arrow did for Gloria. She quit her job in New York working for Mayor Giuliani and founded Puppies Behind Bars.
Puppies Behind Bars pay for all expenses connected to having the dogs in the prison system, all supplies and equipment for the dogs, and educational materials for the puppy-raisers, the teacher’s wages and travel. If you are a dog trainer and would like to get involved, you may find an opportunity.
Service Dogs for Returning Veterans
PPB also cover expenses connected with getting a service dog for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. They pay for the round trip expense for the veteran and a family member to join the two-week training session that begins the transformation of making the dog and the veteran a team.
At a cost of $25,000 each to non-veterans, service dogs are also trained by many generous volunteer puppy-raisers who work for up to two years to train dogs for what will be required of them once placed. While $25,000 per dog sounds like a tidy sum, when a service dog is the difference between living a life dependent on others, or one of self-directed purpose, it’s the bargain of a lifetime.
The need for service dogs is great, the cost is not negligible, and time to train is long when you are in a line that can take two to five years wait time. If you would like to support Puppies Behind Bars programs, you will be helping them train more dogs.