Adorable Dogs Trained by Inmates for Adoption

Today author June Cotner, Trainer for Freedom Tails, Deb Thomas- Blake along with former offender Robert Winkle joined us to tell us about a program that aims to give shelter dogs a second chance at life.

To adopt a dog or find out more click here or call 1-360-289-4350 or call Deb at 1-360-589-0109.

Here's an overview of the progam:

Offenders at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC), a state run prison facility located in Aberdeen, Washington, give shelter dogs a second chance at life. Offenders make the dogs more viable for adoption by teaching some socialization, housetraining, and much needed obedience skills.

Stafford Creek’s Superintendent Pat Glebe, Correctional Unit Supervisor Dennis Cherry and North Beach PAWS worked together to launch this program that benefits offenders, dogs, and adopters. The offenders are given a sense of purpose and responsibility; the dogs receive loving attention, care, and a chance for a happy life in stable homes; and the adoptive families appreciate receiving a new family member that is socialized and trained in basic commands.

The process:

The process starts by selecting dogs to participate in the program. Debra Thomas-Blake, the volunteer dog trainer for SCCC, gathers dogs from various shelters in Grays Harbor and surrounding counties. The dogs obtained for the program are usually strays or owner released to the shelters for various reasons. When the dogs arrive at SCCC they typically have kennel stress, no manners, and sometimes medical issues. The Freedom Tails program gives them structure in their lives, good grooming, housetraining, medical care, some socialization, and the ability to trust humans again.

Where the dogs live:

The program started with eight dogs per class, all of which lived in one housing unit. Due to the positive growth and development of the program, Freedom Tails now houses and trains 16 dogs, and involves a second living unit! The dogs stay in the cells with their offender handlers. Each cell has a large airline approved dog crate and all necessary supplies. An outside yard in front of the living units for the program provide an area for the dogs to play and run, 5 outdoor kennels with dog houses, and an area to facilitate 2 additional days obedience trainings weekly. Rain or shine, the offenders work their dogs.

When training begins:

Once all the dogs are at the facility, they begin an eight week training program with their assigned offender dog handler.

The dogs are given a colored bandana to indicate the level of training they have received and to indicate if the dog is safe around other people. All dogs are given an Orange bandana when they first arrive to indicate the dog has not received any training and may not be safe to approach. A Yellow bandana indicates a dog may be approached if the dog handler gives permission. The Green bandana indicates the dog has been trained and is approachable. Dogs wearing a Yellow or Green bandana are allowed to go with the offender handler to programs, work, or recreation. Not all areas in the facility are accessible, such as the industries area or the recreations hobby shop, or dining hall, due to safety concerns.

The SCCC volunteer dog trainer teaches offender trainers the techniques for basic obedience commands such as heel, sit, sit/stay, down, down/stay, stand, stand/stay, come, return to heel, and leave it. The training is conducted in the visit room, education dept classroom, or the yard located in front of the living units. Staff and the volunteer trainer observe how each dog is progressing with training instructions. New tasks are given for the individual handlers to work on each week.

The results:

The Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) is dedicated to re-training offenders while they are incarcerated so that when they re-enter the community they have more life skills. This will help them become productive citizens in the community. The dog program teaches the offender dog handlers responsibility, compassion, and patience. The offenders feel good about giving back to the community while utilizing their new found skills.

The dogs benefit from good care, attention, food, training, and love from the offenders assigned to them. The dogs are advertised on the internet by NB PAWS, South Pacific County Humane Society, PAWS of Grays Harbor, Animal Services of Olympia and in local community publications so they can be adopted and placed in good homes. This is a win/win/win program for dogs, offenders, and adopters


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