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These prisoners are using their sentences to train assistance dogs

BY Alice Gawthrop

13th Feb 2024 Good News

1 min read

These prisoners are using their sentences to train assistance dogs
In the mood for some good news? Restart Dogs is a vocational education program that works with prisoners in the UK to train assistance dogs
Dogs in prisons? It may be more likely than you think. But don’t worry, these dogs aren’t in any trouble!
Based in the UK, Restart Dogs is a vocational education programme that trains adult offenders to become assistance dog trainers. They raise and train dogs to become assistance dogs, teaching them key skills such as door manners, staying where they are asked, and walking to heel. And the dogs teach their handlers a thing or two as well, such as responsibility and respect. The programme is paid for by the Prisoners Fund, raised by the work that prisoners while they are serving their sentences. 
"The dogs teach their handlers a thing or two as well, such as responsibility and respect"
There are a few conditions that prisoners must meet before they can take part in the programme: they must already have committed to rehabilitation programmes, for example, and they may be required to have a certain amount of time left to serve in order to provide consistency in a dog’s training. The rewards are great all-round. For prisoners, the therapeutic benefits of dogs have been well researched and documented. Working with professionals to train dogs responsibly allows prisoners to improve their social skills, empathy and self-regulation, which are all key for social re-integration later down the line.
Meanwhile, for people in need of an assistance dog, there can often be a long waiting list due to the length of time it takes to train an assistance dog—it usually takes two to three years. Thanks to the work that Restart Dogs is doing, there are more happy, healthy assistance dogs, and prisoners are able to get a second chance in society!
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