Inmates of Donovan Prison put to Work Training Service Dogs

“They say a dog is a man’s best friend, and they’re not wrong about that,” said David Mix, an inmate at Donovan.

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Donovan State Prison in Otay Mesa, California has rolled out the first graduates of a new state run program that has inmates training dogs for wounded veterans.  Not exactly thought of as the most life giving and affirming place, the prison inmates say they are giving both the dogs, and themselves, a “new leash on life.”

This past Friday, the first graduates to complete the program were given a ceremony to mark the occasion.  Both wounded Army vets and autism patients were in attendance.  A Labrador retriever by the name of Dante was given to a vet to assist her with both mobility issues, and problems with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The program has been named Prisoners Overcoming Obstacles and Creating Hope, or POOCH for short.  The program is aiming at benefiting everyone that comes into contact with it.  Inmates get a chance to learn a new approach to problem solving, and working as a team and individual skills as well.  The dogs receive training that puts them assisting people get back to something that resembles normal life, and some military vets are getting the help that they need and deserve.

“They say a dog is a man’s best friend, and they’re not wrong about that,” said David Mix, an inmate at Donovan.

“You help somebody out in the public that really needs a service dog,” said Mix. “You help the inmates, their morale their work habits, everything changes…With a dog comes responsibility. So you think about things a little bit different.”

Research has shown that programs like this one can do great things for everyone involved.  The programs are therapeutic, and go far to the reduction of violence in the correctional system.  A fact of everyday life when one is in prison.

“You have a sense of pride within yourself because you noticed that change. It’s a change for the better,” Mix said.

Dante is the first graduate of the program, and he was given to Iraq Veteran Captain Krpata.  The captain was injured while on deployment in Iraq, and unfortunately lost a leg.  The emotional stress of living with one leg, and every other thing a soldier on deployment goes through caused great depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Dante is here to help her with all of that,

“Having a service dog saved my life. Because instead of worrying about me or focusing on me or worrying about what’s going on in my head, what I think I did wrong in Iraq or whatever, I stopped doing that,” Captain Krpata said.  “When you feel like you’ve lost everything. And you worry about is not taking care of your troops. Taking care of Dante and worrying about his every little need is exactly what I needed.”

There are plans in place to continue the program at Donovan.  They may even be expanding the program to more inmates and more rescue dogs.  Everyone involved sees it as a win, win situation.

“He has uplifted my spirit, given me a sense of pride that you normally won’t get just from doing time,” Mix said. “So it’s a positive situation for everybody. For myself, the dog and the beneficiary.”

25 thoughts on “Inmates of Donovan Prison put to Work Training Service Dogs

  1. Three way win for all involved. It gives the dog another chance at life, the veteran gets the service he needs, and the trainer accomplishes something positive

  2. It’s a great idea. The animals get the attention they need and the inmates get a reason to get up in the morning.

  3. Wasn’t their a film made based on a true story about something similar. Everyone gains from this idea and doggies bring out the good in everyone.

  4. I love this idea…my son spent time in prison for drugs & stupidity…but he loves animals & is very good with them. Good for the dog & the inmate..win win!

  5. I’ve supported this for a long time… add grooming courses… add landscaping courses… give these people a chance when they get out

  6. this program really works i have seen it on tv before i dont know what the show was called but the dogs help the inmates to be softer and more compassionate animal therapy has high success rates

  7. This is great!!! Love the idea of giving inmates a chance to do something so honorable for our country and the men & women who so need these animals!!! Its a win,win!!!! Dogs heal! Soldiers and Inmates as well!!!

  8. Excellent program, all jails should have a program like this. It helps people, pets and to save tax payers money!

  9. I love programs like this. I never agreed giving inmates or parolles a second chance until I watched Pitbulls and Parolles. Tia Torres has been rescuing animals for over 30 years and in the last 20 years began rescuing Pit Bulls and Parolles. There are a few parolles that have been in her program and have changed their lives because of working with these dogs. They have become producive tax payers and live a clean life. Not all the inmates or parolles change, but most do and become active members of society. WHICH is a win-win for all of us.

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