Military Prisoners Serving Time Give Back By Training Service Dogs For Injured Veterans

March 28th, 2008 by Dan

At the Camp Lejeune brig in North Carolina, something amazing is happening: 11 young Marines imprisoned for crimes like theft and drug abuse are training service dogs that will be donated to injured comrades returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. While many programs exist that use civilian prisoners to train service dogs and even wild horses, the Lejeune program is thought to be the first of its kind in a military prison.

“The good thing is that Roxy will go on to help someone. Someone I know, most likely, because the Marines are a pretty tight community,” said inmate Chris of the Labrador Retriever he is training. Chris and other inmates spoke to The Republican-American under military rules governing interviews in brigs, which stipulate that inmates may give only their first names and can’t tell interviewers the nature of their offense.

Inmate With Service Dog In-Training

The dogs, most of which are Labrador Retrievers and Labrador mixes, were adopted from area animal shelters. One, Bailey, was slated to be euthanized the same day that he was adopted to enter the Camp Lejeune service dog program. Now he and the other dogs in the program are being trained to eventually perform tasks like loading laundry into washing machines, performing banking transactions, and switch lights on and off, as well as other tasks specific to the needs of the disabled veterans to whom they are donated. When the dogs are ready to take on their new roles, each will know more than 70 tasks.

The program is being administered and funded by Rick Hairston, who owns Carolina Canines for Service, a program that trains service dogs and provides them to people with disabilities free of charge. He designed the program and is currently paying the costs for sending two civilian trainers to the base several times to help teach the inmates to train the dogs, vet bills, and other expenses. Hairston says he proposed the collaboration to Camp Lejeune because he could see no other way to increase his organization’s output of service dogs, given that each dog takes two to three years to train. The wait for a dog from Carolina Canines for Service is already at least two years.

We’d like to thank our friend Veralidaine for bringing us the latest information on service dogs!





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