Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

DOCCS Expands Puppies Behind Bars Program

Now provides service dogs for first responders

The University of Phoenix reports that 85 percent of first responders surveyed in its 2017 study had experienced mental health issues and one-third were diagnosed with depression or PTSD.

Recognizing that this group, which is commonly overlooked and often suffers from acute stressors and mental health issues due to their occupations, DOCCS recently approved the expansion of Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) to train service dogs for first responders.

"Puppies Behind Bars has a wonderful track record. It has served the blind, law enforcement, and veterans from Irag and Afghanistan. Accordingly, it is only appropriate to turn our attention to first responders and police officers whose work can also cause them to suffer from PTSD," said DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci.

Since its inception in 1997, PBB has expanded its goals from training guide dogs for the blind, to explosive detection canines for law enforcement agencies (2002), to service dogs for wounded veterans (2006), and now to service dogs for first responders (2018).

PBB recently concluded its first class for first responders.

Puppy Raisers — incarcerated individuals who live and work with the puppies for two years — teamed up to coach first responders in becoming fully certified service dog handlers.

"The first responders and puppy raisers trusted each other and the two weeks were full of hope, commitment, hard work and professionalism on both sides," said Gloria Stoga, Puppies Behind Bars president and founder. "We all learned a lot — and the [first responders], by their own admittance, left with views of inmates that were changed forever."

A First Responder with their Puppies Behind Bars Service Dog A First Responder with their Puppies Behind Bars Service Dog A First Responder with their Puppies Behind Bars Service Dog

PBB First Responders with their dogs.