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Prison inmates train guide dogs

  • Associated Press
  • May 26, 2014 - 12:35 PM

OSHKOSH, Wis. — Eight dogs, ranging in age from 9 weeks to 2 years, are in training to become working companions. And their training ground might surprise you.

Inmates at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution are responsible for the animals' care and for training them to become guide dogs through the organization Paws Forward.

Six yellow and black Labs, a poodle and a golden retriever rotate between handlers in the prison and weekly volunteers who take the dogs out into the community to socialize them.

Paws Forward volunteers join the inmates for training sessions and help with grooming.

Warden Judy Smith said the program is a rehabilitation opportunity for the inmates at the medium-security prison.

"We believe it is important for inmates to learn the importance of giving back to the community," Smith said in an email to Oshkosh Northwestern Media (http://oshko.sh/SFjdHQ ). "Often times, there isn't a way to repair the impact they have had on victims, so giving back to the community is a way to develop empathy for others."

The dogs go through training in the prison and living with raisers and socializers before they move on to a certified trainer, after which they can be placed with a family.

Paws Forward is sponsored by OccuPaws, a nonprofit organization based in Madison that places trained guide dogs with Wisconsin residents who need them at no charge.

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