Abandoned Dogs Benefit From Program that Teaches Compassion and Caring

Nine juvenile offenders from the Southern Correctional Reception Center and Clinic graduated recently from a unique program that teaches personal skills that will help them live more constructively when they return to their communities.
They received informal diplomas in patience, compassion, discipline and responsibility—skills that will give them a “new leash on life”— after spending the last 12 weeks caring for abandoned and abused dogs rescued from a Southern California animal shelter and training them in basic obedience skills so that the dogs could be united with new owners who adopted them.

Four dogs rescued from the Southeast Animal Control Authority in Downey represent the third graduating class of the Pups and Wards Program (PAWS), which is exclusively offered at the Division of Juvenile Justice facility in Norwalk. It is designed to teach care-giving techniques and life skills to youthful offenders by making them responsible for a live animal.

“This program provides an opportunity for youth to perform a service to the community and teaches them skills such as compassion, patience and responsibility, which will help them throughout their lives after they return to their communities,” said Bernard Warner, Chief Deputy Secretary for Juvenile Justice, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The four dogs have received around the clock care from the youth, who were responsible for creating a nurturing environment where the animals could be rehabilitated from previous abuse and for training them in basic obedience commands. The program gives youth the opportunity to learn new skills to get a fresh start in life, much like the dogs they cared for.

During the graduation ceremonies at the Norwalk facility, youth put the dogs through their paces, showing off their newfound skills to follow commands. The dogs then eagerly left the facility with their new owners.
Alex Vargas, who adopted a pit bull/terrier mix aply named “Hope,” was as enthusiastic about the PAWS program as he was about his new pet. “It’s awesome that so many people are contributing to the lives of these dogs,” he said as he held the leash with Hope on the other end.

Cassandra Stansberry, superintendent of the Southern Correctional Reception Center and Clinic, noted that the program is a two-way street. “This program is a love match, helping to change the lives of youth and dogs,” she said.

The dogs and their new owners were matched by Janette Thomas, from the Pawsitivity Dog Training Program, who also tutored the youth on how to care for and train the dogs.

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