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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Friday, March 02, 2012

Who Didn't Let the Dogs Out?

Jack Kemp

In 1981, a formerly troubled youth who had lived in a mental institution and on the street - and later became a Dominican nun named Sister Pauline Quinn - got the idea to train dogs in prisons to help both the inmates and the people they would later serve.

Sherry Stripling in the Seattle Times explained in a 1998 article:

At a conference in the late 1970s, she heard about Dr. Leo Bustad, who already was doing similar work as chair of Washington State University's respected veterinarian program.

Quinn shared her idea with Bustad, who understood her dilemma. How could she - with her history - convince institutions that she was legitimate? He agreed to put his reputation on the line.

Sister Pauline says today she believes Bustad understood her suffering because he was a former prisoner of war.

Linda Hines, who was working with Bustad in Pullman on other programs that used animal compassion to help people in need, says Bustad always was open to new ideas. It was clear that Quinn had insight.

"She has a genuine love of people and animals," says Hines, now CEO and president of the Delta Society, which encourages the use of animals for healing. As would always be the case, Quinn had no resources, Hines says, but she knew how to "survive by her wits."Quinn was a client with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation when she made a video of a dog she had trained to help people in wheelchairs. She bought a briefcase and pretended she was a professional.

The state's mental health department turned down the idea but, with Bustad's support, the department of corrections went for it.

A successful program

The Prison Pet Partnership Program became official in 1981. Quinn stayed only a year, but the program continued to grow and strengthen.

This first program, initiated at the Gig Harbor Washington State Correctional Center for Women, was so successful that it has been going strong ever since, both in the U.S. and overseas, with both female and male prisoners. It proved to authorities that non-professionals could train dogs for use by people with disabilities, including dogs for veterans.

Sister Pauline Quinn's work was even made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame program in 2001 called "Within These
Walls," starring Laura Dern as Sister Pauline.

Last November, Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) of Staten Island and a Marine combat veteran, got a bill passed through the U.S. House - with over 90 co-sponsors - for a pilot program that could dramatically cut the cost of training and increase the number of service/healing dogs for wounded veterans. This would be accomplished by having the wounded veterans themselves train shelter dogs and thus immediately give the veterans the benefits of canine companionship.

The Army Times explains that,

Getting dogs from shelters not only saves animals’ lives but also reduces costs, because specially bred service dogs can cost up to $50,000 each, according to a press release jointly issued by Grimm and the Humane Society.


Programs with similar purposes already exist. The Washington Humane Society’s Dog Tags program in Washington, D.C., has wounded soldiers training dogs from the local shelter. A similar program at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Operation Heroes and Hounds, involves wounded Marines and homeless dogs. Grimm’s bill would establish pilot programs at three to five Veterans Affairs Department medical centers over five years, where veterans with service-connected mental health issues would train dogs to help physically disabled veterans. During the five-year test, VA would determine if training dogs was therapeutic for the veterans, and whether the dogs were adequately trained to help the physically disabled veterans.


The Veterans Dog Training Therapy bill then went to the Senate as S 1838, sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and five cosponsors: Sen Mark Begich (D-AK), Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). It now sits in committee as the Senate lawmakers discuss more headline grabbing national issues during the current House-Senate gridlock. Be that as it may, there a many veterans out there who need this program to start and grow as soon as possible. In a rare act of my being bipartisan, I'll say that I don't believe Pres. Obama would want to turn down an opportunity to sign a bipartisan bill while being photographed with some wounded veterans - and a dog or two - during this election year.

If you could contact your U.S. Senator - particularly if they are one of the six mentioned above - and urge them to get S 1838 out of committee and on to the Senate floor for a vote, you could repay, in some small part, a wounded veteran for his or her service.

Reference - Other Dog Sources

I also want to add some website information from both the non-profit and private sector that trains healing/service dogs. I am not personally familiar with any of these organizations and thus cannot vouch for them. Use your own judgment in contacting these people.

America's Vet Dogs
Canines for Combat Vets
Canine Companions for Independence
The Dog Tags Program
Patriot Paws
Hero Dogs
Puppies Behind Bars in New York has a form to request a dog for veterans. The Application Form is at:

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