Puppies Behind Bars: America's Vet Dogs Improving Prisons
03/12/2013
WHAG-TV - Online

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HAGERSTOWN, MD -- Some inmates say it's been years since they pet a dog, and now they're raising them.

Since last summer, America's Vet Dogs gave puppies to the Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown (MCIH). Now the inmates are training them into service dogs for wounded U.S. Veterans.

"In prison, guys don't like change, and this brought about a big change," says Terry Dorsey, U.S. Veteran and inmate.

Terry Dorsey is serving 25 years, but after showing good behavior, he moved into the honor dorm to train his new inmate: a not-so-little puppy.

The inmates say raising these puppies behind bars has dramatically changed North Dorm. Just like three month-old Delta, in about a year, she'll be fully trained to service an American Vet. Prison officials say all of the inmates are doing such a good job giving back that Chapter 14 of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) just gave the program $2,000.

"This is the best thing in 32 years I've seen. We started the program and they came to me and said, 'Lieutenant, don't buy the cages we can build them,' " says Lt. Robert Shoemaker, Unit 2 manager at MCIH.

Inmates say it's therapeutic for them, and the dogs.

"We're people too. We made mistakes and done things wrong we wish we could take back but we can't take it back. It's a way to let the people on the outside know that we're worth something, and this dog program is a way to do that," says Dorsey.

The American Vet Dogs program cannot erase the past, but it's sure giving hope to the future