CHINO -- The Prison Pup Dog Shelter Program at the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility (YCF) in Chino celebrated its first graduation today in a special ceremony involving the pups and the juvenile handlers. The innovative program focuses on instilling positive care-giving techniques to the youth involved and gives back to the community. The next step will be providing adoption of the pups to the public.
The first four dogs in the program at the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility in Chino have completed 12 weeks of training with the juveniles and are ready to be adopted. The dogs in the program are rehabilitated from past neglect and abuse and then retrained for basic obedience and proper socialization for re-adoption into the community. Now that these dogs are fully trained in obedience, the first cycle of the program has come to a conclusion.
“This is a worthy cause enabling our youth to give back to the community and teaches them about caring and responsibility,” said Bernard Warner, Chief Deputy Secretary for the Division of Juvenile Justice. “We are proud to be part of this program and are hopeful that the dogs in our care can be given to appropriate citizens in need, to ease them in life’s challenges.”
"The Prison Pup Program at Heman G. Stark is positive for our young men. It teaches them how to provide care while training the dogs”, said the facility’s Superintendent, Ramon Martinez. “Our young men learn patience, discipline and this program offers them skills for everyday life and the future. The Restorative Justice Model is exemplified by this program."
The program began on Sept. 25, with 13 juvenile canine participants. The youth initially went through intensive canine-handling theory training for five straight weeks. The dogs, from the Orange County Humane Society were selected and started socializing with the trainers from Canine Support Team at about the same time. The dogs and handlers were matched up by the end of October.
Today’s graduation ceremony featured a dog handlers’ demonstration by the program participants, slide show presentations, and testimonials of the people involved in the program.
According to Superintendent Martinez, “It is apparent the youth have learned and achieved significant values from participating in this program. The young men have described the experience as developing talents in compassion, dog training, patience, responsibility, parenting and most of all unconditional love,” Martinez said. The dogs were anticipated to graduate at the conclusion of six months, but the great dedication and care provided these animals by their juvenile handlers has them ready at three months. “This quicker than anticipated life cycle will allow for more rescued animals to cycle through the program,” said Heman G. Stark YCF Treatment Team Supervisor, Michelle Lee, who supervises the program. Lee said the institution expects to add more handlers and dogs during the next cycle by the middle of March 2008.
The program received much community and media recognition for being the first program of its type in a Juvenile Justice setting.
The Orange County Humane Society is scheduled to hold its adoption fair on Mar. 1, when these four dogs will be presented to the public for their first opportunity at adoption.