Sarah Ford | June 26, 2014

Canine Partners for Life’s Prison Puppy Raising Program is Healing Inmates’ Hearts and Spirits, Using Man’s Best Friend

By Sue Ann Rybak

One look into a 8-week-old Labrador Retriever’s big brown eyes, and even the hardest criminals heart will melt. Canine Partners for Life’s prison puppy raising program is healing inmates’ hearts and spirits, using man’s best friend. Canine Partners for Life (CPL), a local non-profit organization that trains service dogs, home companion dogs and residential companion dogs to assist individuals with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities.

“Over half of the puppies we have are being raised in correctional facilities in Pennsylvania and Maryland,” said Darlene Sullivan, executive director for Canine Partners  for Life. “The pups bring smiles to a place that is often hard and cold. Puppies can provide unconditional love and offer no judgment.”

In 2013, 42 puppies received care and training from dedicated inmates in seven prisons throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland. “Having this program in place has helped us immeasurably in creating a pool of highly trained service dogs to meet the increasing numbers of CPL applicants,” Sullivan said.

Prior to receiving a puppy, the inmate handlers are vigorously screened and then receive training from Canine Partners for Life. The puppies are sent to the institution at about 8 weeks of age and remain at the institution for one year of training.

Each dog is assigned two inmate handlers who are responsible for training and caring for the dog. 

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