Graduating pups to lend helping paws to children in need

The second group of assistance dogs in Borallon Training and Correctional Centre’s recently introduced Smart Pups program will lend their new skills to help children with disability thanks to the help of prisoners.

Nacho, Ninja, Nixie and Nellie graduated last month after beginning the program in February as part of the partnership forged late last year between the centre and Smart Pups.

Nacho, Nixie, Nellie and Ninja at their graduation.

Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin APM said it was heartening to see the Smart Pups program continue in another Queensland Corrective Services centre to improve prisoner outcomes.

“This is a great initiative, also running at Maryborough Correctional Centre, that provides prisoners with valuable skills that improves their chances of finding a job and reintegrating with the community once released.

“It is gratifying to see another rehabilitation program helping prisoners understand the causes of their offending, while also helping disadvantaged people in the community,” Commissioner Martin said.

The Smart Pups program is the first step of training for the assistance dogs. Once all training is complete, the dogs will be placed with a child in need of assistance somewhere in Australia or New Zealand, based on the dog’s individual abilities to help the child.

Borallon Training and Correctional Centre Acting General Manager Alan Houchin said the Smart Pups program was another way the centre was attempting to break the cycle of re-offending.

“International research confirms that dog handling programs such as this are effective in helping improve prisoner behaviour while in custody, with prisoners less likely to re-offend wehn compared to those not involved in a dog handling program.

“We also know that when prisoners are released into the community and have employment opportunities, stable accommodation and social support, they have the best chance of not  reoffending, which makes the community safer for everybody,” Mr Houchin said.

Nacho graduating proudly.

Smart Pups Senior Dog Trainer Dayle Telford said there had been 20 successful graduates through the Prisoner Training Program that are now qualified working assistance dogs.

“We have many more clients on our waiting list. Having this program can help reduce the time frame for those children desperately needing their special friend,” Ms Telford said.

“This valuable program is a win-win for both the correctional centre and Smart Pups.”

Prisoners at Borallon Training and Correctional Centre are currently training another four assistance dogs through the Smart Pups program. Zane, Zeus, Vadar and Velvet are due to graduate in September.

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