1. In Which Prisons Do You Run Your Program?
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (Bedford Hills, New York)
Edna Mahan Correctional Facility (Clinton, New Jersey)
Downstate Correctional Facility (Beacon, New York)
Fishkill Correctional Facility (Beacon, New York)
Otisville Correctional Facility (Middletown, New York)
Wallkill Correctional Facility (Wallkill, New York)
2. How Are The Puppy-Raisers Chosen?
Each puppy-raiser is carefully screened by the staff of the correctional facility and by Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) personnel.
In order to qualify for the puppy program, the individual has to have a clean prison disciplinary record for at least one year and must be considered both reliable and trustworthy by prison officials.
3. What Is The Program Like For The Inmates?
Puppy-raisers are required to sign a contract with PBB that outlines all of their responsibilities vis-à-vis the puppies and the program. The contract states clearly that any inmate may be asked to leave for any reason deemed appropriate by PBB.
Requirements for participation in the program include mandatory attendance at weekly puppy class and successful completion of reading assignments, homework and exams. Furthermore, the puppy raiser must always put the needs of the puppy before his or her own, must be able to work effectively as a member of a team and must be able to give and receive criticism in a constructive manner.
Puppy-raisers and their dogs are housed together, in individual cells, on one dedicated cell block.
4. How Do You Ensure The Puppies' Safety And Well-Being?
The puppies are very visible throughout the facility. The employees of the facility (both security and civilian staff) interact with the puppies throughout the day and care deeply about the puppies’ welfare and well-being. Please remember that the inmate puppy-raisers love the dogs deeply and know that they will be dismissed from the program immediately if they do not do their utmost to take care of the dogs.
5. What Does A Typical Day For A Puppy In The PBB Program Entail?
After breakfast (generally around 5:30-6:00 a.m.), the puppies are exercised in an enclosed area in a group setting. We call this “puppy rec” and the puppies play among themselves and with their raisers for at least one hour. This play is always supervised by puppy raisers.
The dogs then go to work with their raisers for approximately two hours. Our inmates are employed in a variety of positions including as clerical staff in office settings; working in the prison laundry, barber shop or library; and working as assistants to senior prison officials. Very often, puppy-raisers will “swap” dogs so that each puppy gets accustomed to a number of different environments; those inmates attending school are permitted to bring their dogs to class with them.
The puppies and their raisers return to their housing units for lunch, rest and another one-hour recreation period. They go to work again in the afternoon, and after dinner the pups get their last recreation period of the day before receiving their daily full body massages, getting their ears cleaned, their teeth brushed and their nails clipped, and getting groomed. This is also the time when most of the inmates spend quiet, personal time with their dogs, reading, watching television, and just bonding with their pups.
6. How Are The Puppies Socialized?
Prisons are self-contained communities with a variety of settings and stimuli. Each facility has a mess hall, gymnasium, recreation yards, religious centers, classrooms, industry training programs, horticulture centers and offices. At Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, there is also an infant care center, where children live with their mothers for the first eighteen months of their lives. The puppies are permitted nearly everywhere and are exposed to everything that the facilities have to offer.
To provide additional exposure, Puppies Behind Bars has two well-established volunteer programs involving people from the surrounding communities. The weekend puppy sitting program involves families agreeing to host a puppy in their home at least one overnight per month. “Puppies by the Hour” is a similar program with volunteers taking the puppies out on day trips into the community.
We also operate a “puppy shuttle” whereby up to sixteen puppies come into Manhattan every weekend for exposure to a chaotic urban environment.
In order to participate in the program, each volunteer must attend training sessions, provide references, and commit to our program for a minimum of one year.
7. How Many Working Dogs Are PBB-Raised?
We have raised 755 dogs. Check out Puppy Placement to learn which puppies are in training and how our graduates are serving the community.
8. Are The Inmates Sad When They Have To Give Up The Puppy?
Yes, each inmate is very sad when their puppy leaves prison, and virtually all of them cry. They cry in front of instructors, in front of correctional officers, in front of other inmates, and alone in their cells. The tears, however, are not necessarily just tears of sadness. They are also tears of pride, for each puppy-raiser whose dog becomes a working dog feels deep joy in knowing that they – and their dog – succeeded and that their dog is going out in the world to make a difference in someone’s life.
9. What Kind Of Working Dogs Does PBB Raise?
Service dogs are responsible for aiding wounded war veterans with everyday routines. This includes such things as turning on lights, retrieving dropped items, opening and closing doors, and doing the laundry. For wounded vets with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and/or TBI (traumatic brain injury), our dogs can dial 911on a special phone, can clear a room so the vet knows no one is lying in wait, can awaken the vet from nightmares, and can watch behind the vet, assuring him or her that the dog “has my back.”
Explosive-detection canines (EDC’s) are responsible for seeking out explosives and alerting their handler when they have recognized an explosive scent.
10. What Is Each Kind Of Working Dog Responsible For Doing?
Service dogs – Responsible for aiding wounded war veterans with everyday routines such as getting dressed, turning on lights, retrieving dropped items, allowing them to go into public because they make their vets feel safe, etc.
Explosive-detection canines (EDC) – Responsible for seeking out explosives and alerting their handler when they have recognized an explosive scent.
11. Where Does PBB Get Its Dogs?
PBB buys its puppies from breeders that we have been working with for years. For us, the most important trait for our dogs is confidence and we work with breeders whose dogs are confident. Of course we all love it that our dogs are beautiful as well, but what we really need are dogs that are confident enough to be in the public eye all the time and not get overwhelmed.
12. My Puppy Is Really Smart And Wonderfully Friendly. I Think He Would Make A Great Service Dog. May I Donate Him To You?
Thank you, but the temperament and health history of our dogs are extremely important, so we only work with dogs whose lineage we can trace back multiple generations. We do not accept donated dogs of any age.
13. I Have A Disabled Family Member. May She Apply For A Dog?
Puppies Behind Bars only provides service dogs to wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. There are many service dog schools in the country that do provide service dogs for disabled adults; if you go to Assistance Dogs International’s website (www.assistancedogsinternational.org), you will find a list of service dog schools throughout the country.
14. What Happens If A Puppy Does Not Make It As Working Dog?
All puppies are individuals and not every PBB puppy is destined to become a working dog. While our goal is to produce working dogs, we respect our puppies as individuals. If a puppy does not meet the requirements of a working dog, PBB sells them to appropriate families as pets. While these particular puppies may not have been destined to sniff out bombs or help a war vet, these puppies will most definitely bring smiles to whichever family is lucky enough to adopt them. If you are interested in adopting one of our dogs, please download the application in Apply for a Released Dog.
15. How Can I Help?
More ways to give to check out “Support Us” to learn how to support PBB
If you are 18 or older and live within 45 minutes of one of the correctional facilities in which we run our program, you can volunteer for us. We also run puppy shuttles to Manhattan and West Point, NY. (West Point is only open to families, staff, and cadets stationed at the post while our Manhattan volunteer opportunity is generally full year-round.)
Volunteer puppy sitters are needed to aid in the socialization of our puppies. After receiving six hours of practical hands-on training in basic puppy handling techniques, our volunteers take our pups out on monthly overnight outings or bimonthly day excursions. As they are exposed to as many appropriate and positive experiences as possible, our puppies develop the confidence to handle varied environments and stress levels. A great deal is expected of working dogs and the socialization our volunteers provide is critical to our dogs’ success.
Paws & Reflect Volunteer
Volunteers take our puppies to visit homebound elderly senior citizens in Manhattan, providing additional socialization for our puppies and extra love and puppy kisses for seniors who rarely leave their apartments. To participate in this program, you must live in Manhattan.
All volunteers are trained on an as-needed basis. In general, you can expect a six-month wait to attend a volunteer training. If you are interested and wish to receive the guidelines on volunteering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your interest in helping.
16. Where Are You Located?
While our dogs work throughout the United States and even the world, our office is in New York City and our prisons are in New York and New Jersey.
17. Are There Any Employment Opportunities?
Puppies Behind Bars seeks experienced service dog trainers available to work at PBB’s affiliated correctional facilities in the New York metropolitan area on a part- or full-time basis. Applicants must live in the vicinity of one of the facilities. Please send cover letter and resume to Gloria Gilbert Stoga at programs@PuppiesBehindBars.com