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Utah Female Prisoners Train Service Dogs for Veterans

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PHOTO: Canines With a Cause provides service dogs, trained by female prison inmates, to veterans coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health challenges. Photo courtesy Canines With a Cause.
PHOTO: Canines With a Cause provides service dogs, trained by female prison inmates, to veterans coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health challenges. Photo courtesy Canines With a Cause.
 By Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT, Contact
April 22, 2014

DRAPER, Utah - A program new to Utah allows female prison inmates to train shelter dogs to serve as companion and service animals for veterans suffering from mental health challenges. Cathy King, executive director, Canines With a Cause, says the dogs live with the selected inmates at the Utah State Prison for up to nine months of training, then are paired with veterans to help them cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and other conditions.

"The benefits really are threefold," she explains. "Not only is the dog getting out of a shelter and going to a veteran to help them really improve their life, but the program has been so amazing for the women at the prison."

King says the animals are specially trained as psychiatric service dogs, which is a benefit the Veterans Administration does not provide. The program saves thousands of dollars in training costs, King points out, noting that a trained service dog can cost $15,000 or more.

Currently, six dogs are being trained by inmates serving sentences ranging from two years to life in prison, she says. For veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and are now struggling to readjust to civilian life, she adds, the dogs can be a huge help in making that transition.

"A lot of these guys wouldn't be able to leave their homes without these dogs because of their high level of anxiety," she explains.

Canines With a Cause has placed more than 200 dogs with veterans since the program started four years ago.

More information about the program is at http://canineswithacause.com.


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