Lovey, Franz and I enjoyed an amazing time visiting with the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility’s (SNMCF) Prisoners and Animals Working for Success (PAWS) program. These determined inmates are taking unwanted dogs from the Mesilla Valley Animal Services Center in Las Cruces, NM, and giving the dogs basic obedience training and hope for adoption and a second chance at life.
This successful training program has grown in less than a year from 5 to 15 dogs per class and has 15 adopted dogs to date. The inmates have demonstrated discipline and patience working with the dogs and preparing them for their forever homes. Although it is difficult to say goodbye to the dogs, the inmates remain optimistic and explain that the sadness is easier to bear because they know that their dogs will be going to good homes and they will be receiving a new dog to train.
The inmates discussed their desire to increase their dog handling skills to eventually identify and train potential shelter dogs to become future service dogs. SNMCF staff is working with a service dog agency in California that is interested in accepting a select group of PAWS dog graduates to assess for potential assistance dog careers.
It was awe-inspiring to spend some time with the PAWS members and to witness their interaction with these dogs. It was also fun for them to meet Lovey, my service dog. They had lots of great questions about Lovey, how she was trained, how she and I work together and what she does to help me have a more independent life.
I am a strong supporter of the PAWS program and other prison dog training programs. My retired service dog, Whistle, participated in a prison puppy-training program so I know first hand the impact these programs can have not only on the dogs, but also on the inmates who work tirelessly to train them.
The inmates of the PAWS program have to work hard to get and keep the privilege of working with the dogs. If they receive just one security violation, they can no longer participate in the program.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Lovey and I are sending a big shout out to our new friends at the SNMCF PAWS program including volunteer trainer, Doug Baker, and SNMCF education staff Jessica Walley and Renee Waskiewicz. Thank you for all the work you doing to support the trainers and the dogs!