A group of 13 low-risk inmates serving life sentences at a minimum security facility in Rockwell City will raise, socialize, and care for puppies, so that the dogs can later be trained as service animals via the Des Moines-area non-profit Paws & Effect, Iowa Department of Corrections officials recently announced.
The North Central Correctional Facility houses approximately 500 offenders. Located in Rockwell City, Iowa, the institution emphasizes individual accountability and responsibility, and offers a variety of education and life skills programs. Programming also includes vocational education opportunities through Iowa Central Community College, and working in the facility’s gardens, which produce more than 30,000 pounds of vegetables annually.
“The North Central Correctional Facility is honored to be given the opportunity to work with Paws & Effect,” says Warden Robert Johnson. “Initial interest was formed by offenders convicted of a life sentence who believe this program will provide a means to give back to the communities by providing service animals specifically aimed at assisting veterans and children. These men host a myriad of skill sets as well as possess a deep history in training service animals. We at the North Central Correctional Facility believe this program also fulfills our mission of ‘Creating Opportunities for Safer Communities,’ as we will be assisting those experiencing specific hurdles in their lives the opportunity to not only feel safe but also thrive in their environment with a beautiful, well-trained therapy/service animal at their side.”
Paws & Effect Executive Director Nicole Shumate says she looks forward to the partnership, particularly as an extension of her organization’s foundation in promoting compassion and care through the human-animal bond.
“It is a privilege to work with offenders, whose efforts include contributing to the community in a healthy, effective, and positive way,” Shumate says. “Too often, we shun criminals whose crimes will keep them incarcerated for the rest of their lives, foregoing opportunities of rehabilitation. In a state that has eliminated the death penalty, we have an obligation to offenders that extends beyond the minimal physical needs of keeping them alive in a contained and restricted environment.”
“The value that offenders will be bringing to Paws & Effect and service dog recipients can not be overstated. With a collective span of decades of service dog training between them, they bring a talent that is difficult to find in any other place. We are honored to stay true to our mission of taking a moment and making a difference.”
Through the partnership, Paws & Effect will supply puppies and trainers with dog food, hard chew and pull toys, starter leashes, and collars, clickers, and treat bags. Puppies will work with participating offenders for approximately 18 months, before graduation, placement, and
Service animals are trained to perform physical tasks to assist a specific individual. Given their socialization and obedience training, animals who do not meet service animal requirements may still be employed and placed as therapy animals, performing jobs and boosting morale in libraries, hospitals, and other facilities.
Established in 2006 and based in Des Moines, Paws & Effect is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises, trains, and places service dogs with military veterans and children diagnosed with medical needs. The group also registers therapy animals through Pet Partners. Its Beaverdale neighborhood storefront also serves as a training center, as well as home base to Troop 232 of the Dog Scouts of America.