Story Published:
Jul 5, 2011 at 12:28 PM PDT

Coyote Ridge to Expand Dog Training Program

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WA DEPT OF CORRECTIONS NEWS RELEASE — Coyote Ridge Corrections Center will expand the dog training program to the Assisted Living Unit in July. The offender based dog training program was implemented in collaboration with A2Z Animal Sheltering Services, a non-profit organization that operates the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter and Control Services in October 2010. The program began with two dogs and six handlers, but has grown to include 34 offenders and 22 dogs at the Medium Security Complex (MSC).

The program has been such a success thanks to the Animal Shelter and Krystal Ellingson of Speak Dog Training, administration agreed to expand the dog program to the Minimum Security Unit. Two dogs will be used as companion dogs for offenders living on Assisted Living tiers in the Sage Unit. The unit houses 55 geriatric offenders who have a wide range of day-to-day medical needs. The offenders, most of whom are elderly, need assistance ranging from needing basic assistance with medication administration to full-time care and ready access to medical resources.

Studies have shown there are physical, mental, and psychosocial benefits of canine companionship in long-term or hospital type settings. The dogs that will be assigned to the Assisted Living Unit have already received basic training at MSC and will serve as therapy dogs like those for individuals in the community. Their job is to bring cheer and emotional support to the offenders of the unit and enhance the mood of the prison setting. When the dogs are out-of-service, they will live with offender handlers in the regular population of the Sage Unit as they do at MSC.

The program teaches offenders responsibility, social skills and patience. It has also proven to be a good behavior incentive for offenders, reduces idleness, and teaches them to give back to the community in a positive way.

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