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Frequently Asked Questions

1. In which prisons do you run your program?
2. How are the puppy raisers chosen?
3. What is entailed in the Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) program?
4. How do you ensure the puppies' safety and well-being?
5. What does a typical day for a puppy in the PBB program entail?
6. How are the puppies socialized?
7. How many dogs has PBB raised?
8. Are the inmates sad when they have to give up the puppy?
9. What kind of working dogs does PBB raise?
10. What is each kind of working dog responsible for doing?
11. How do PBB puppies get named?
12. Where does PBB get its dogs from?
13. What happens if a puppy does not make it as working dog?
14. How can I Help?
15. Why do some PBB dogs get rewarded with food when working while others
get rewarded with play when working?

16. Are there any employment opportunities?


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1. In which prisons do you run your program?

Women's Prisons
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (Bedford Hills, New York)
Edna Mahan Correctional Facility (Clinton, New Jersey)
Federal Correctional Institution (Danbury, Connecticut)

Men's Prisons
Fishkill Correctional Facility (Beacon, New York)
Mid-Orange Correctional Facility (Warwick, New York)
Otisville Correctional Facility (Middletown, New York)


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2. How are the puppy raisers chosen?

Each puppy raiser is carefully screened by the staff of the correctional facility and by Puppies Behind Bars personnel. In order to qualify for the puppy program, the individual has to have a clean prison disciplinary record for at least two years and must be considered both reliable and trustworthy by prison officials.

If all of these requirements are met, each applicant is interviewed by PBB staff, using psychologist-written questions developed specifically for PBB. PBB staff decide who to admit to the program based upon the interview, the inmate's record, and discussion with prison officials.


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3. What is entailed in the PBB program?

Puppy raisers are required to sign a contract with PBB that outlines all of their responsibilities vis-à-vis the puppies and the program. The contract states clearly that any inmate may be asked to leave for any reason deemed appropriate by PBB.

Requirements for participation in the program include: mandatory attendance at weekly puppy class, and successful completion of reading assignments, homework and exams. Furthermore, the puppy raiser must always put the needs of the puppy before his or her own, must be able to work effectively as a member of a team and must be able to give and receive criticism in a constructive manner.

Puppy raisers and their dogs are housed together in individual cells.


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4. How do you ensure the puppies' safety and well-being?

The puppies are very visible throughout the facility. The employees of the facility (both security and civilian staff) interact with the puppies throughout the day and care deeply about the puppies' welfare and well-being. Please remember that the inmate puppy raisers love the dogs deeply and know that they will be dismissed from the program immediately if they do not do their utmost to take care of the dogs.


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5. What does a typical day for a puppy in the PBB program entail?

After breakfast (generally around 5:30-6:00 am), the puppies are exercised in an enclosed area in a group setting. We call this "puppy rec" and the puppies play among themselves and with their raisers for at least one hour. This play is always supervised by puppy raisers.

The dogs then go to work with their raisers for approximately two hours. Our inmates are employed in a variety of positions, including: as clerical staff in office settings; working in the prison laundry, barber shop or library; and working as assistants to senior prison officials. Very often, puppy raisers will "swap" dogs so that each puppy gets accustomed to a number of different environments; those inmates attending school are permitted to bring their dogs to class with them.

The puppies and their raisers return to their housing units for lunch, rest and another one-hour recreation period. They again go to work in the afternoon, and after dinner, the pups get their last recreation period of the day before receiving their daily full body massages, getting their ears cleaned, and getting groomed. This is also the time when most of the inmates spend quiet, personal time with their dogs, reading, watching television, and just bonding with their pups.


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6. How are the puppies socialized?

Prisons are self-contained communities with a variety of settings and stimuli. Each facility has a mess hall, gymnasium, recreation yards, religious centers, classrooms and office. At Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, there is also an infant care center (where children live with their mothers for the first eighteen months of their lives) and a large greenhouse. The puppies are permitted nearly everywhere and are exposed to everything that the facilities have to offer.

To provide additional exposure, Puppies Behind Bars has two well-established volunteer programs involving people from the surrounding communities. The weekend puppy sitting program involves families agreeing to host a puppy in their home at least one weekend per month. "Puppies by the Hour" is similar program with volunteers taking the puppies out on day trips into the community. In order to participate in the program, each volunteer must attend a training session and provide three references.


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7. How many working dogs are PBB-raised?

We have raised 702 dogs. Check out Puppy Placement to learn which puppies are in training and how our graduates are serving the community.


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8. Are the inmates sad when they have to give up the puppy?

Yes, of course each inmate is sad when their puppy leaves prison and goes off to service dog or law enforcement school. However, it is very fullfilling to know that he or she has contributed to society rather than taken from it and everyone is very proud of a job well done.


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9. What kind of working dogs does PBB raise?

PBB raises explosive detection canines and service dogs for children and adults.  Our Dog Tags program specifically focuses on providing service dogs to wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
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10. What is each kind of working dog responsible for doing?

Service dogs - Responsible for aiding disabled people with everyday routines such as getting dressed, turning on lights, etc.

Explosive Detection Canines (EDC) - Responsible for seeking out explosives and alerting their handler when they have recognized an explosive scent.


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11. How do PBB puppies get named?

Our puppies can be named by anyone that donates $6,000 to sponsor a puppy. As a sponsor, you will get to name a puppy and you will receive quarterly progress reports and pictures on the puppy while it is being raised by PBB. Your information is not given to the inmate raiser that is raising your puppy. The raiser writes the progress reports and PBB staff sends it to you. If you are interested in sponsoring a puppy, please contact us at 212.680.9562.


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12. Where does PBB get its dogs from?

PBB puppies come from various sources. Our dogs generally come from private breeders that are known for producing wonderful Labrador and Golden retrievers. In 2005 we started breeding our own puppies through what we call “The Puppy Project.”

With this project in effect, we are able to cut some of the cost of having to buy our puppies from outside sources. This project also enables us to donate puppies to service dog schools to get more service dogs out into the world. After the raisers have trained the puppies for obedience, the puppies are given back to their respective agencies for formal training.


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13. What happens if a puppy does not make it as working dog?

All puppies are individuals and not every PBB puppy is destined to become a working dog. While our goal is to produce working dogs, we respect our puppies as individuals. If a puppy does not meet the requirements of a working dog, PBB searches for families that might benefit from having a companion dog or pet. While these particular puppies may not have been destined to sniff out bombs or help a disabled person, these puppies will most definitely bring smiles to whichever family is lucky enough to adopt them. If you are interested in adopting one of our released puppies, please click here to download the application.


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14.  How can I help?

Check out “More Ways to Give” to support PBB.

Puppy Socializer
If you are 18 or older and live within 45 minutes of one of the correctional facilities in which we run our programs or if you live in NYC, you can volunteer for us.  Our puppies are raised in six correctional facilities located in Beacon, NY, Bedford Hills, NY, Otisville, NY, Warwick, NY, Clinton, NJ and Danbury, CT.  We also run a puppy shuttle to Manhattan and West Point, NY. 

Volunteer puppy sitters are needed to aid in the socialization of our puppies. After receiving four hours of practical hands-on training in basic puppy handling techniques, our volunteers take our pups on monthly overnight outings or bimonthly day excursions. As they are exposed to as many appropriate and positive experiences as possible, our puppies develop the confidence to handle varied environments and stress levels.  A great deal is expected of working dogs and the socialization our volunteers provide is critical to our success training and raising successful working dogs.

Paws & Reflect Volunteer
Volunteers take our puppies to visit homebound elderly senior citizens in Manhattan providing additional socialization for our puppies and extra love and puppy kisses for seniors who rarely leave their apartments. 

Volunteers are interviewed and trained on an as-needed basis. In general you can expect a six month wait to attend a volunteer training. If you are interested and wish to receive the guidelines on volunteering, please contact programs@puppiesbehindbars.com


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15. Why do some PBB dogs get rewarded with food when working while others get rewarded with play when working?

Some agencies reward their working dogs with food and some reward their dogs with play. Some feel that food is the strongest motivator to get a puppy working while others think that play is the best motivator for working. To accommodate the needs of the agency getting a particular dog, and to set the puppy up for success when it becomes a working dog, PBB starts the appropriate reward system early on in the puppy’s life. All PBB dogs are evaluated when they are puppies to determine which line of work best suits its personality.


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16. Are there any employment opportunities?

Puppies Behind Bars seeks certified, experienced service dog trainers available to work at PBB’s affiliated correctional facilities in the New York metropolitan area on a part- or full-time basis. Applicants must live in the vicinity of one of the facilities. Please send cover letter and resume to Gloria Gilbert Stoga.


 
Puppies Behind Bars • 10 East 40th Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10016 • 212.680.9562 • Fax 212.689.9330