Death Row Dogs
If you have never heard of Blessings Unleashed Foundation I urge you to keep reading. It is a national program designed to help unlock the puzzle of autism by turning rescue dogs into pets for children. The foundation’s mission is to enrich the lives of individuals with autism by training and placing highly skilled service dogs. They accomplish this by properly training select rescue dogs for their future individualized task and educating recipients to utilize and care for their service dog.
Blessings Unleashed is committed to enriching the lives of children with autism by training and placing service animals that provide them with companionship and promote independence.
In some cases, Blessings Unleashed service dogs begin their training at the Green River Correctional Complex in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky through The Death Row Dogs (DRD) Program, a 12-week course with a specific curriculum designed for both dogs and inmate trainers. The program has two goals. The first goal is to save the lives of dogs and the second to help inmates.
Dogs that would have been put to death, simply because they aren’t wanted, get a second chance to be adopted by a family. Inmates benefit by experiencing the compassion and responsibility that comes from raising and training a dog.
The dogs selected for the program are required to undergo and pass behavioral and temperament testing. This testing includes: dog to dog behavior, dog to cat behavior, prey drive, and capabilities with young children and disabled persons.
Classes are comprised of 20 dogs and 40 inmate trainers. Each dog lives in a cell with two trainers. Every dog is exposed to an intense training program designed for the dog’s unique behavior needs as well as basic obedience, house training, crate training, and a few tricks. Before graduating, almost every dog passes the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test on their first attempt. This is the first step toward therapy certification.
Inmates attend classes once a week with their dogs. The inmates are responsible for keeping a daily journal where they document the dog’s activities. The journals are reviewed by the training instructor each week.
During the training experience dogs also become familiar with a professional grooming situation. They are exposed to bathing, nail trimming, hair trimming and/or cutting, flea and tick dipping and hair dryers. All of these services are conducted by inmates in the grooming class. Grooming services are also available to the general public.
Approximately 10% of the dogs that enter the program go on to be service dogs for autistic children or for soldiers with a disability.
The Death Row Dogs program is a collaborative effort between three organizations located in western Kentucky – the Green River Correctional Complex, Pine Hill Kennels, Jack’s Place Animal Rescue, Rowdy Rescue, Blessings Unleashed and Posey County Pound Puppies.
The Green River Correctional Complex is a 982 bed medium/minimum security adult male correctional facility located in Central City, KY and operated by the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Department of Corrections. Construction of GRCC was completed in 1994. The facility is a direct supervision model, consisting of 3 medium security general population housing units with 444 double bunked cells, a maximum security segregation unit with 44 single bunked cells, and a 50 bed open dorm style minimum security unit. The Death Row Dog Program began in 2004. Since that time, over 500 dogs have participated in the program. Some of the dogs have gone on to do therapy work in nursing homes and hospitals.
This story was filmed and created by Channel 13 in Bowling Green, KY. They are an ABC affiliate. I was given permission to share and edit the story.
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The video clip and most of this information came from WBK0, an ABC affiliate in Bowling Green, Kentucky.