A chance to help others through service
California State Prison, Sacramento, has started the Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles and Creating Hope (POOCH) Service Dogs Program. Prison staff are collaborating with International Guiding Eyes, also known as Tender Loving Canines.
POOCH is a non-profit organization with the mission of transforming lives with service dogs. Through the program, carefully screened incarcerated individuals train the dogs.
The program is designed to meet the need for service dogs, but also offering education, rehabilitation, and community improvement for incarcerated trainers.
In June 2021, POOCH participants were selected through an interview and review process. During the first 12 weeks, dogs are assigned trainers, allowing them to bond. This also prepares the dog for placement in the community to help a person with a disability. The training process begins after the first 12 weeks, when a dozen participants are paired to co-train six dogs over the next 18 months.
To cement the training bond, dogs stay with their trainers 24 hours a day, sleeping in the same quarters. After the graduation, the CSP-Sacramento service dogs are placed with a disabled veteran or someone with autism.
Prison staff are excited to have the POOCH Program and the ability to help the community and the incarcerated individuals who participate in this positive rehabilitation program.
Story by Lt. Erik Altvatter
Learn more about canines in the state prison system.