Suffolk Inmates Graduate in Puppy-Training Program

Suffolk Inmates Graduate in Puppy-Training Program

Sheriff Errol Toulon is joined by Working Paws CEO Deborah Whitney, with the inmate trainers in the background. Photo from sheriff’s office

On Feb. 10, six female inmates participated in a graduation in a unique puppy-training program at the Yaphank Correctional Facility.  

Inmates at the Yaphank jail graduate from their puppy training courses. Photo from Sheriff’s office

Pawsitive Second Chances is a program designed and developed by Working Paws Training Inc. where puppies are brought into the jail and are trained in basic obedience skills by the inmates. The puppies get exposure and socialization to various different sounds, smells and visual stimuli, and the inmates get the opportunity to nurture the pups. 

“The dog doesn’t ever hold anything against anyone,” said Deborah Whitney, the founder and CEO of Working Paws. “It’s unconditional regardless of what you as a person have done.”

After training, the puppies are available for adoption through Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue, a nonprofit no-kill animal shelter in Port Jefferson Station. Working Paws and Save-A-Pet work as a team to help adopt and save the animals. 

In December 2018, Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) unveiled the Choose to Thrive Female Program Pod in the Yaphank Correctional Facility. Directors say the program uses a holistic approach to helping women behind bars get back into mainstream society. From trauma counseling to assistance for the inmates’ children, the women are in a structured program where they can choose the courses or services they want. This is the first program pod offered to the female general population.

“Sometimes it’s just that one little thing that can be transformative and that can put someone over the top to realize what they can achieve,” Toulon said of the program.

The pet-training program enhances a shelter dog’s adoptability and placement into programs. After completing the program, the puppies are highly desirable for adoption and the program ensures long-term success for both humans and canines. At the same time, Working Paws helps to open the inmates’ eyes to a world of training and provides them with options for life outside of prison.

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