Saint Francis Service Dogs Summer 2018

The Saint Francis Prison Pup Program is a partnership between Saint Francis Service Dogs and Virginia Department of Corrections at Bland Correctional Center, which is a medium-security prison that holds approximately 650 male offenders. The partnership accommodates the need for puppy raisers while providing the inmates with an entertaining, meaningful, yet challenging job while incarcerated. The thriving program began with 3 inmate puppy raisers in 2002 and expanded to 24 puppy raisers by 2018.

of the puppy to another puppy raiser. Needless to say, puppy raisers work hard to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The puppies thrive in prison. They enjoy a consistent schedule, with lots of time for learning, playing and constant companionship. Most Saint Francis puppies spend time in prison under the tutelage of the approved offenders, where the puppies are gently guided in the areas of socialization, manners, and obedience, which will advance them toward the ultimate goal of becoming a Saint Francis Service Dog.

There is an ongoing waiting list of applicants who

are trying to earn their role in the program. Prior to acceptance into the program, the prison counselor who manages the participants appoints the puppy raisers after an extensive screening of the applicants, a comprehensive review of the offender’s criminal history, a conduct assessment, and an interview. The prison counselor is a liaison to Saint Francis, overseeing the men and communicating with the Saint Francis Puppy Program Manager regularly. The job of puppy raiser at Bland is considered to be a coveted privilege earned by the men for good behavior. The participants must maintain near- perfect behavior in all aspects of prison life to stay in the program. A breach of any rule or regulation results in the termination of their job, and the transfer

The men train the puppies applying methods approved, taught, and monitored by Saint Francis. The Saint Francis Puppy Program Manager teaches the men training techniques, evaluates the progress of the puppies, and troubleshoots training issues. The puppies offer love, comfort, humor, and sources of relaxation while exposing the puppy raisers to reward-based motivation. The men learn about dog psychology, teamwork, and social support. The program improves the morale of the inmate population as a whole and helps to break down barriers of fear and mistrust while offering a positive, worth-while link to the people Saint Francis serves. Raising puppies is an active way in which the incarcerated men can contribute something positive to society.

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