Service Dogs For First Responders

Backup Buddy®


A long-standing relationship with first responders and law enforcement agencies

As a Manhattan-based non-profit, we were living and working in New York City on September 11, 2001. We saw how that day changed our city, our country, and the world. We saw how first responders worked tirelessly to keep our city and country safe. In the years since, we’ve seen threats to our safety increase, and witnessed the increasingly hard jobs we, as Americans, ask of first responders all across our country. 

For the past twenty-five years, we’ve been training service dogs. For the past fifteen years, our dogs have been bred and trained for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war vets; since 2018, we have also been breeding and training Labradors for you, our frontline First Responders.

We want to thank you for the work you do on a daily basis and we want to help you, if you have Post Traumatic Stress or physical injuries from the job, get back on your feet again.

Since we breed our dogs ourselves, we know our dogs are the healthiest, most responsive, and most confident dogs available. It also means we can start socializing our dogs from the moment they are born.

By the time one of our dogs is paired with you, that dog has at least 10,000 hours of socialization, which means it has been to schools, libraries, houses of worship, baseball games, kids’ football games, to the movies, on city busses and on trains, and in Manhattan for countless weekends. It means it has been exposed to so many different experiences and people, that it’s learned to take everything in stride – so that you can, once again, as well.

And because all our dogs are raised in prison, they have developed an empathy and responsiveness to humans which we have never seen in any other dogs. Our dogs live in prison with “puppy raisers,” who are people who generally feel vulnerable and emotionally fragile. Our dogs learn, instinctively, to help people who need them.

A lot of our first responders have hit rock bottom by the time they come to us: they may have tried self-medicating; their families may have fallen apart or threatened to; they are taking more prescription medications than they want to; they may have thought about or tried to commit suicide. And then they get a Puppies Behind Bars Backup Buddy® and for reasons, to be honest, that even we do not fully understand, their lives change. The dogs provide the confidence needed for our first responders to re-engage with their families and the world.

Puppies Behind Bars pays for all the costs associated with getting a Backup Buddy®. We will provide a hotel room, transportation, and meals for the 14 days that we train you, at a facility in upstate NY, to become a team with your new dog.

Apply For A Backup Buddy® Service Dog

To qualify for a Backup Buddy® service dog, you must be capable of incorporating a dog into your life. You must be able to provide a stable, safe environment for our dog, as well as love, exercise and food. Most importantly, you must be willing to become more independent and to work with a highly trained four-legged companion.

  • Download and submit a completed Backup Buddy® application. 
  • After review, we will begin the interview process, contacting health care providers and verifying references.
  • If accepted, you will join us for 14 days of training with the dog chosen for you.
  • Four months after training is completed, we will conduct a home visit, and will see you annually thereafter, to re-certify you and your dog as a working Backup Buddy® team.
  • For additional information, please contact:

Make a Donation

Puppies Behind Bars is a non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, tax I.D. #13-3969389, and donations are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law.

You may make a one-time donation in any amount you wish, or sign up for recurring gifts on a schedule that works for you.

For gifts in honor or in memory of someone:

If your donation is made in someone’s memory or honor, we will send a card to the designated recipient(s) acknowledging your generous donation on their behalf.

Please include the recipient’s mailing address on the online form. You can view an example of one of our cards here.

Prefer to donate a different way?

PBB offers many ways for you support our mission, including by phone and mail, and with memorial and matching gifts.

Click here to find one that works for you!

In Memory of Barbara Gladstone

Adopting Albee, and then Noonan, changed Barbara Gladstone's life. And she, in turn, changed ours. The pain in our hearts upon her death is too deep to fathom.