I’m working a theme this 4th of July long weekend: I’m giving to charities that support the military. But a mini-theme has emerged. I can’t believe this organization that I’m giving to exists because it ties in so many things I support: helping injured vets, animals, and social justice. If this charity didn’t exist, I’d wish I’d started it.
Puppies Behind Bars is not about canines who have committed crimes. Don’t be silly! Puppies Behind Bars teaches inmates to train dogs to either be service dogs for wounded soldiers or to detect explosives. And as it turns out, the pups do actually live in the prison with the inmates starting at 8 weeks. When the dogs are 20 months old, they leave the prisoner who has trained them and happily wag their way into a life of service.
How perfect is this charity? (And it has a great rating from Charity Navigator). It help rehabilitate prisoners and teach them responsibility and how to take care of another sentient being, and it trains the dogs to go help those who have donated their lives to our country, and it trains dogs to help keep us safe. This program is a winner any way you look at it.
Gloria Gilbert Stoga started the program in 1998 at New York’s Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women and was originally geared around training the lab puppies to be guide dogs. However, after 9/11, Puppies Behind Bars expanded to train the dogs to recognize explosive devices as well, as a way to thank and aid law enforcement agencies.
In 2006, Puppies Behind Bars added training dogs to help wounded soldiers returning from war zones. The inmates train the soldiers, who go into the prison, to work with their dogs.
The program runs in six prisons in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Prisoners must have a clean prison record for at least a year to be considered to raise a pup. What great incentive!
Grab your favorite four-legged friend, some tissues and watch this video to find out about the program. For some reason, I couldn't embed it, but please don't let my technical ineptitude keep you from clicking on the link. And click here to see an impossibly cute photo of a dog saluting.
July 7: Puppies Behind Bars