VIDEO: BCSO Paws and Stripes College Partners With Eastern Florida Veterinarian Technician Program
By Maria Sonnenberg // October 15, 2017
CENTRAL FLORIDA HUMANITARIAN AWARDS
ABOVE VIDEO: The BCSO Paws & Stripes College, which pairs female inmates with homeless canines to train the dogs in therapy service, is a win-win-win-win situation. The inmates gain valuable lessons in responsibility that can be later applied to the workforce, the previously homeless animals find forever homes and a purpose in life and the community benefits from the service these animals provide, and it all happens at almost no cost to taxpayers.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – At the county’s animal shelter, Harley kept getting passed over by potential adoptive families, because the energetic beagle just seemed too much to handle.
That was several weeks ago, but these days Harley is a sworn officer at the Boynton Beach Police Department, where she uses her canine “people skills” as a law enforcement therapy dog.
The comforting presence of these animals help victims, particularly children, remember and disclose more information, thus resulting in bringing to justice more crime perpetrators.
Harley is a graduate of Paws & Stripes College, which pairs female inmates with homeless canines to train the dogs in therapy service. It’s a win-win-win-win situation.
The inmates gain valuable lessons in responsibility that can be later applied to the workforce, the previously homeless animals find forever homes and a purpose in life and the community benefits from the service these animals provide, and it all happens at almost no cost to taxpayers.
“The presence of the dogs creates a friendly environment that reduces anxiety and increases the cognitive ability of the victim to remember what happened and to describe the event,” said Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit agent Jessie Holton.
Originally intended for child victims, the dogs have proven so successful that they’re now being used with adult victims and even with suspects.
“The dogs change the dynamics,” said Holton. “Suspects will pet the dog, but stop petting it when they’re lying, so we’re given an edge in the investigation.”
AMAZINGLY LOVING ANIMALS
Although many organizations around the country have parts of the Paws & Stripes model, none has the comprehensive breadth of the Brevard program.
“There is nothing out there that has all the details as Paws & Stripes College,” said Holton.
The program begins when Animal Care Center’s staff identifies potential canine candidates for the program. They may be big or little, too rambunctious or too timed, but they all have not been adopted because their particular behavior scares away prospective pet parents.
“They’re rough around the edges, but they have potential,” said animal services manager Joe Hellebrand.
The animals are enrolled in an eight-week canine etiquette program that transforms them into canine good citizens who won’t soil the house and will pay attention to their humans. Inmates perform the one-on-one training.
Animals who have an extra edge go on for additional lessons, while those who don’t return to the shelter, where they will be snapped up, since they are perfect models of behavior.
While many of the dogs, like Harley, do go on to law enforcement therapy work at agencies across the state, others are assigned at no cost to the adopters to serve as comfort dogs for children with autism or other behavioral or emotional issues, for veterans suffering from PTSD or for anyone in need of the comforting presence of these amazingly loving animals.
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