Inmates train service dogs

Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs is a program that trains dogs to be service animals for individuals with autism as well as wounded veterans. The program is pretty similar to many others like it — except that these dogs get trained in prisons.

In 2014, the organization started a program called Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles & Creating Hope (POOCH). The program was developed as a way to increase the number of service dogs who could be trained and then given to those in need, but it ended up becoming so much more than that.

Dogs enrolled in the POOCH program live in the prison with the inmates, and attend classes twice a week with their designated inmate handler. The dogs are also brought out of the prison twice a week for additional training and exposure to different public places.

The program began its trial run at the Richard J. Donovan (RJD) Correctional Facility's firehouse in California, and when that was successful, it was moved into one of the facility's main prison yards. The program was also recently introduced at California's Mule Creek State Prison.

A total of 11 dogs so far have been placed in the prisons, with five more planned for 2016.

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