CIM shows off service dogs program

CIM service dogs trainer with dog.
An incarcerated trainer at CIM and one of the service dogs he's trained.

Since 2015, California Institution for Men (CIM), in partnership with the non-profit Canine Support Team (CST), has helped train service dogs for the disabled.

Earlier this year, the Pawz Behind Wallz service dog program trainers at CIM, along with their four-legged companions, were on hand to demonstrate some of these skills.

The incarcerated dog trainers demonstrated basic commands like sit, down and stay. They also showed off advanced commands such as retrieving a dropped ID card or flipping a light switch.

“When these dogs graduate the program and are placed with their disabled person, they are able to open and close doors, help their client remove shoes and socks, retrieve a drink from the refrigerator and perform many other trained tasks helping their client live a complete life,” said Acting Warden John Merchant.

One of the program’s self-help sponsors, CIM Property Controller Mike Fairbanks, said veterans benefit from the work done at CIM.

“These dogs have brightened the lives of countless disabled persons, including many disabled veterans,” said Fairbanks. He noted roughly 80% are placed with disabled veterans.

Following the demonstration, CST staff interacted with the trainers and service dogs. The program participants said working with CST and the self-help sponsors has assisted their rehabilitation and overall outlook on life.

Submitted by Lt. Manuel Vega

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