Southern Queensland Correctional Centre's Jane with Assistance Dogs Australia's Pups in Prison Program pooch Hoover during an outing in Gatton.
Southern Queensland Correctional Centre's Jane with Assistance Dogs Australia's Pups in Prison Program pooch Hoover during an outing in Gatton. Donna Marchiori

How these puppers are helping prisoners be good boys

BE ON THE look-out for three residents of the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre who are known for leaving the prison to explore the streets of Gatton.

But they aren't prisoners and they didn't escape.

Suzie, Hoover and Hugo are puppies who are part of Assistance Dogs Australia's Pups in Prison Program, based at SQCC.

One day they will help people living with a disability like autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or a physical disability like quadriplegia or cerebral palsy.

Initially living with Puppy Educators in the wider community to learn the basics, when the pups were six to eight months old they began their training with the prisoners.

Inmates make for great puppy educators because they are able to give the round-the-clock attention the clever puppies need.

"This program was extremely successful with the male prisoners and I think it can be even better with the female prisoners" SQCC's Assistant Director Business and Finance Jeff Ticehurst said.

Prisoners are also motivated to participate in the program because the puppies help their rehabilitation.

During their time at the SQCC, Suzie, Hoover and Hugo will polish their basic skills, such as sit and stay, and move on to more advanced skills like opening and closing doors and drawers and retrieving dropped items.

The dogs in training were spotted by the Gatton Star, walking the streets and exploring shops with their handlers.

Although they have been out and about broadening their learning, the ADA is searching for local volunteers to look after the dogs during short breaks from the prison, ranging from weekends to a few weeks.

This time out will help them understand and adjust to the sights and sounds of home life.

"SQCC is currently looking to increase the number of dogs in the centre to eight dogs at any point and to do so we need to increase our network of community based volunteers" Mr Ticehurst said.

Anyone interested in fostering a dog can apply through the ADA's website www.assistancedogs.org.au



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