Puppies in Prison
A partnership between Mobility Dogs and the Department of Corrections
In July 2008 the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust (Mobility Dogs) and the Department of Corrections launched New Zealand’s first ‘Puppies in Prisons’ (PIP) programme.The partnership between the Department of Corrections and Mobility Dogs goes a long way to provide highly trained Mobility Dogs to meet the growing demand from New Zealand’s physically disabled community.Given that the Trust at present has 50 working dogs in New Zealand communities it is innovative programmes such as this partnership between Corrections and Mobility Dogs that will ensure that more Mobility Dogs are available to work in the community.
Mobility Dogs Trainers work with the prisoners
Mobility Dogs trainers carry out a well defined training programme whereby the prisoner handlers are guided in aspects of animal learning, behaviour, motivation, and development. The prisoners are being offered the opportunity to learn new skills, be an integral part of a meaningful relationship and also to contribute to the wider community. Commitment, self discipline, study, reporting, teamwork and leadership are all elements and outcomes of the programme.
An essential component of raising and training dogs in a prison environment is socialising the dogs outside the prison. Mars New Zealand, who sponsor all our dogs with their Nutro food product have stepped in to assist. On a regular basis, our dogs leave the prison for the day and train at the Mars Auckland office Mars associates spend time with the dogs in their day to day activities exposing the dogs to a variety of experiences. This is a significant committment from Mars New Zealand and one that we are extremely grateful for.
The prisoners working with Mobility Dogs
Prisoners involved internationally in these types of programmes have stated to researchers looking into the effects of caring for dogs in prisons that being part of the programme provided a purpose in their lives, taught them patience and responsibility, and instilled in them respect for others. Staff working with prisoners that cared for the dogs reported that the programme had big benefits for the prisoners involved, including developing pro-social behaviours, building a sense of self esteem, and instilling in them responsibility through the absolute care of the animal.
More Mobility Dogs working in the community
For the Trust, the partnership with Corrections has the simple aim of ensuring more service dogs are trained for the disabled communities of New Zealand. This programme is an effective way to do this. Similarly, for Corrections, the programme offers significant benefits to the prisoners involved: the development of pro-social behaviours, a sense of self-esteem, and instilling in the women a sense of responsibility – potentially all of which will serve both the prisoners and our communities well.