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Dogs to be trained by prison inmates to help Utah's veterans

By Ashley Kewish | Posted - Apr 7th, 2014 @ 8:19pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Many veterans in our communities live with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. A Utah group is helping by pairing them with specially trained therapy dogs, and they have a unique approach to get the dogs ready.

Canines With a Cause rescues shelter dogs and trains them to be placed with veterans suffering from PTSD. Beginning Tuesday, six of these dogs will be trained by female prison inmates.

As men and women return from combat, battle wounds aren't always visible with the naked eye.

"What I do think is that we see recently returned veterans struggling with reconnection and re-engaging," said Shaun Woodard, a trainer with Canines With a Cause.

They've already placed more than 200 therapy dogs with Utah veterans.

"When they have a dog, they feel safe," said Cathy King, executive director of Canines With a Cause. "The dog is going to bark when somebody is in their house. They can sleep at night knowing their family is safe. If they start having an anxiety attack, the dog can lick their face and bring them out of it. There are a lot of things that they can do."

The group only works with shelter dogs, animals that also have seen rough times, like Glory.

"Someone was driving in Salt Lake and they saw her either thrown or jump from a moving car," Woodard said. "She was pretty scuffed up."

But she was worth saving and a good candidate to serve as a therapy dog. Training costs between $20,000 and $30,000. So Canines With a Cause found a solution. It decided to place Glory and the other dogs with female prison inmates.

The specific inmates have been selected and screened, and the prison guards are also trained. Two days a week, trainers from Canines With a Cause come in and work with them, they call it a "three-way rescue."

"First of all, the dogs are being rescued from shelters," King said. "The women inmates really benefit from having something to love and nurture, and they learn vocational skills."

Finally, the veterans receive lifelong companionship and support.

Six of the dogs, including Glory, will move into the prison Tuesday morning. Canines With a Cause says it will continue the program as long as there is a need.

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