Service dog training program restarts at Rochester prison

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 5:38 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – A service dog training program restarted Tuesday at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester after it was suspended for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can Do Canines is a nonprofit organization based out of New Hope, MN. It trains service dogs for people with Autism and other medical diagnoses.

It’s Prison Puppy Program started more than 15 years ago. It pairs inmates with puppies, and the inmates help train the dogs. It’s been going on at the Federal Medical Center since 2018.

Seven puppies were handed off to prison staff Monday.

Prison Program Manager Kaity Pollard said Can Do Canines wouldn’t be able to run without help from the inmates. She said it also gives the inmates a sense of purpose.

“This gives the inmates something really important to do,” she said. “It also gives the inmates a chance to feel that puppy love that you don’t always get in prison.”

The inmates help with crate training, potty training and socializing.

The puppies don’t live at the prison full-time, so, the program in need of volunteers to foster the dogs.

“They will be here for a full six months,” Pollard said. “So, it’s a long time to just be in prison. We rely on volunteers to get them out of prison, so they can be socialized and exposed to children, other pets, cats and they can get away from their litter mates and friends a bit.”

Pollard said it costs $45,000 to train one dog. The dogs are given to those that need them free of charge. There is currently a waiting list to receive a dog.

Not all dogs complete training, as some end up not being a good fit as a service dog.

Pollard there are called “career-changed.” Dogs that are diagnosed with medical issues or have behavioral issues aren’t able to service dogs, and those end up going up for adoption.

Can Do Canines doesn’t charge an adoption fee, but at a minimum $300 donation is requested for the adoption.

If interested in fostering a dog, visit the Can Do Canines website.