BY: SYDNEY KEEFE
Puppies Behind Bars began in New York in 1997 and its mission is to have prisoners raise and train service dogs for wounded war veterans. After 9/11 Puppies Behind Bars branched out into training explosive detection canines for law enforcement as well. Puppies enter prison at the age of 8 weeks and live with their inmates for 24 months as the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs.
The ideology behind the charity is that being a trainer will help the prisoners learn what it means and what it feels like to contribute to society and that the opportunity to bond and love a dog can be beneficial to prisoners.
Puppies Behind Bars was inspired by Dr. Thomas Lane who ran the first prison/guide dog program in America. Dr. Lane had guide dogs in three different prisons successfully. Following this, the creator of Puppies Behind Bars went to Albany to meet with the Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services who approved his plan as the Commissioner believed in the rehabilitation of inmates. Since its creation, Puppies Behind Bars had raised over 100 service animals.
As of 2016 Puppies Behind Bars had puppies being trained in six prisons across New York and New Jersey. The charity has been the center of a documentary called “Prison Dogs” that premiered in 2016 in Tribeca. This documentary centers around the complex nature of the prison system and the importance of rehabilitating prisoners and providing them with a way to contribute to society.
The Documentarian said that while the prisoners helped train the dogs, it was the dogs that had a profound impact on the prisoners. The prisoners more often than not have experienced fragmented relationships with their significant others and family members. Training and loving the dogs has provided the prisoners the experience of unconditional love and the pride that comes from giving back to society.
Puppies Behind Bars tracks all of their graduate canines, and their current careers. You can find out what all of their puppies are doing here.