Puppies being trained by prisoners at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility for the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust have secured vital community support after local South Auckland business Pet Pac signed up to provide multi-vitamins and food for the dogs free of charge.
“The dogs coming out of prison are more advanced than the dogs that are trained in the community. The nature of the prison environment means the training is intensive, and we’re very impressed with the work that the prisoners have done. Having a local business come on board and support this work is fantastic,” says Jody Hogan, General Manager Operations for the Trust.
The dogs spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with their handlers, a group of selected low security prisoners living in self-care units at the prison. Respite from the demand of a young puppy comes in the form of ‘puppy parole’ – a chance for the dogs to leave the prison and experience life in the community.
Pet Pac owner, Rick Pickard, says supporting the prison programme wasn’t a tough decision. The family-operated business based in Takanini had previously run a promotion supporting the work of the Trust, and he and wife Donna, along with grown up children Josh and Annika all knew the difference that having a service dog made to the life of someone who was disabled.
“We are very, very pleased to be able to support the work that prisoners are doing to train the dogs. I have been out to the prison and seen the dogs in action, and the pride that their prison-handlers have in being able to give back to the communities they have offended against is great. Aligning our name with the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust meant we could continue to support their work in a very practical way.”
Alongside the food supplied for the eight dogs currently in prison, Pet Pac are supplying ‘Dog Helper’ – a multivitamin developed and manufactured onsite that contains mint, garlic, kelp and cultured yeast. The supplement is sprinkled over the hardworking dogs’ food and keeps them in excellent health.
Rick’s background means he’s a well known personality around the Counties Manukau region. He’s been a Cricket Selector for Northern Districts, New Zealand and the Cook Islands teams, he’s often called on to emcee community fundraising events and he’s also a former school principal, a role he says has lead to his own time spent behind bars. Every few weeks he travels south to Spring Hill Corrections Facility in Te Kauwhata where he mentors a prisoner he once taught.
The Puppies in Prison programme is designed to help reduce the two-to-four year waiting period and cost for a trained dog, however it has the added benefit of also helping with prisoners’ rehabilitation says Prison Manager Agnes Robertson.
“The programme has had big benefits for prisoners involved, including the development of pro-social behaviours, building a sense of self esteem, and instilling responsibility through the care of the animal. Other prisoners who have seen the women working with the dogs are also motivated to comply with their sentences so that they can be considered for the programme in the future.”
“Having a dog may be a privilege, but it is also a huge amount of work considering the service that these dogs are being prepared for,” says Mrs Robertson.
The Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust aims to provide service dogs to improve the quality of life of their disabled owners by increasing confidence, independence and self esteem.Mobility dogs are trained to respond to around 50 commands: including handing a wallet over the counter in a shop, undoing zips, picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors and even sorting washing.
Note for editors:
Jody Hogan from The Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust can be reached on 027 700 7017
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