Prisoners help more children with disability with Smart Pups

More children with disability will receive assistance dogs trained by Queensland prisoners in coming months, with Palen Creek Correctional Centre becoming the third prison to introduce the Smart Pups program.

Prisoners at the low-security centre have been receiving remote training modules during the COVID-19 lockdown so they can continue to prepare golden retrievers Twiggy and Fabio and chocolate labradors Beau and Foxx to become qualified working assistance dogs.

Prisoners are teaching the dogs basic obedience skills as well as tricks like high five and spin. As the dogs progress through the training, they progress to tasks such as retrieving items, opening cupboards and doors and removing shoes and socks.

Palen Creek Correctional Centre Acting Superintendent David Gordon said the centre was excited to receive the Smart Pups program at the centre on the back of its success at Borallon Training and Correctional Centre.

“The program is one where we are attempting to break the cycle of re-offending. It provides prisoners with valuable skills, self-worth, confidence and the clear evidence of what can be achieved by investing in others less fortunate,” A/g Supt. Gordon said.

“Despite the current pandemic, we have been able to find ways of continuing the training so prisoners involved in the program can continue to give back to the community, and specifically help children with disability.

“One of the prisoners involved in the program was involved while at Borallon Training and Correctional Centre. When he heard the program was coming to Palen Creek, he was first to put his hand up to take part because he found it so rewarding being able to give back to the community.”

International research confirms that dog handling programs such as this are effective in helping improve prisoner behaviour while in custody, as well as making prisoners less likely to re-offend upon release when compared to those not involved in a dog handling program.

The Smart Pups program is the first step of training for the assistance dogs.

Once all training is complete, the dogs will be placed with a child somewhere in Australia or New Zealand based on the dog’s individual abilities and the needs of the child.

Smart Pups Senior Dog Trainer Dayle Telford said it was wonderful to partner with Queensland Corrective Services again to establish the Smart Pups program in a third centre.

“The great work the centres and prisoners do for the dogs is amazing. It is because of their help that the dogs will go on to lend their new skills to help children with disability,” Ms Telford said

“With the program now established at Palen Creek Correctional Centre, we are able to have more dogs in Smart Pups, which means more families can receive their dogs in a timely manner.”

The dogs will complete four rotations in and out of Palen Creek Correctional Centre, with Twiggy and Beau due to graduate from the prison program in August, and Fabio and Foxx due to graduate in November.

Palen Creek Correctional Centre is the third centre to establish the Smart Pups program following Maryborough Correctional Centre and Borallon Training and Correctional Centre.

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