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IDOC > Special Initiatives > Prison Tails Prison Tails

For more information, contact:
Mixed Up Mutts Inc.
P.O. Box 193,
LaPorte, IN 46352
Phone: (219) 326-8887
(219) 32-MUTTS

Email: info@mixedupmutts.org 
http://www.mixedupmutts.org

About Prison Tails

In October of 2004, Mixed Up Mutts, Inc. (MUM) partnered with Westville Correctional Facility (WCF) to start the Prison Tails dog training program. Shelter dogs, that might otherwise be "euthanized" due to overcrowding in shelters are trained in obedience by offenders (we call "handlers") MUM is a 501.c.3 not-for-profit organization with no paid positions. Volunteers and donations are the heart and soul of this extraordinary group. They do not receive funding from the State or Westville Correctional Facility.

The Prison Tails Program received two prestigious awards in 2005. Prison Tails earned "Program of the Year" for IDOC facilities. Later that same year the AKC awarded "Program of the Year" to Prison Tails with their first ever "Outstanding Program Award." The AKC stated that, "the Prison Tails Program was so exceptional that they created a special award to be given to the whole program."

The training period provides the handlers with a skill while helping a dog to become more adoptable. Both man and dog get a second chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of society. Inmates are completely responsible for the care and training of a dog. Volunteers visit the facility three times a week to provide guidance in training and socialization. The animals are housebroken, trained to respond to hand and voice obedience commands. The dogs are trained to national standards which are overseen by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The skills of the dogs, and thus the proficiency of the handlers, are then tested in what the AKC calls the "Canine Good Citizen" (CGC) program. This ten-level training standard confirms that dogs are easily approached by strangers, retains composure in a crowd with distractions etc.¦ Passing dogs may go on for further training as therapy or service dogs.   The Prison Tails program has adopted dozens of CGC certified dogs to loving families since the program started in 2004.   In addition, handlers are assigned readings on dog breeds, health issues and behavior. Writing reports and oral presentations build experience and confidence in their abilities. Interacting with visiting speakers and canine experts also give the men opportunity to improve interpersonal skills.

Handler positions are highly coveted by the prison population, so participation in the program is used as an incentive for good behavior. The program has a waiting list of men who would like to become a part of the dog-training program. Some of the handlers have been eligible for less restrictive placements in the facility but have declined in order to stay involved with the dog-training program. Trainers have shared that they're surprised at the amount of patience they possess.

According to correspondence sent by facility staff and offenders in the program, there is less stress with the dogs present. "They (handlers) have put themselves in a position equivalent to parenting in a challenging environment," Sarah Stevens, president and founder of Mixed Up Mutts, Inc/Prison Tails said, "More than one of them has told me that they had never had to be responsible for anything before. Now they have to protect, nurture, attend to and educate a dependant." It is a humbling experience to listen to what the dogs have taught them she said.

Prison Tails is a winning program all around. Dogs are offered a reprieve and training. Offenders learn skills and actually make a positive difference in society. IDOC gets positive recognition for innovative programming. Adopters get a well-trained addition to their family. Volunteers are fulfilled by their good work. Shelters are not obligated to destroy healthy dogs. And you, the public, are not only happy to hear a positive story like this, but you may also be inclined to help support MUM's efforts financially.

The adoption fee is $250 for Prison Tails dogs. Mixed Up Mutts invests well over $100 in veterinary services for a healthy dog. Spaying/neutering yearly vaccinations, monthly heartworm & flea prevention and microchips are provided for each dog we take in. (A trip to the emergency room costs nearly $200 alone!!) In addition, MUM provides food, training materials, books, supplies and equipment and certification registry for the program.

Mixed Up Mutts is a not-for-profit organization and welcomes gifts of animal care products, pet food, doghouses, foster homes, adoptive families and financial contributions.

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