Prisoners train service dogs - New York News

Prisoners train service dogs

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

The charity Puppies Behind Bars provides working service dogs to America's wounded military veterans.  The puppies are raised and trained in some of New York's prisons.

Annette Montstream is serving a 20-to-41 year sentence for manslaughter at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.  She persuaded a co-worker to kill her husband.

Her reward for good behavior behind bars is to raise a dog named Hope.

"It has shown me that someone can make me feel like a human again," Montstream says.  "I can love this dog unconditionally and this dog will love me back."

Jaymie Powers is also incarcerated for second degree murder and won't be eligible for parole until 2023.

"When you are incarcerated, the world stops trusting you.  In this program the world trusts us with a living, breathing being that is vital to someone's life," Powers says.

About 800 Labrador Retrievers are being raised by convicted felons within five correctional facilities in New York.

The dogs spend two years with the inmates.  They are put through an intense training program.  It is so that one day they can help a disabled veteran.

Carl Rotan is the senior instructor at Bedfored Hills Correctional Facility.

"The dogs dial 911 on the phone.  They take your shoes and socks off. They make the bed.  They take dishes from the table and drop them into the sink," Rotan says.

Carbon is a product of the program.  He is now with veteran Johan Arenas.

Arenas became disabled by a IED during his second tour in Iraq.

"In the Marine Corps you get assigned somebody.  You always have to be with someone.  You can't be by yourself.  That is the whole point.  That's Carbon now for me in the civilian world," Arenas says.

The steady temperament and high intelligence of Labradors make them an ideal breed to train as service dogs but it's not cheap. The training typically costs as much as $25,000 per dog.

The non-profit group Puppies Behind Bars has been providing service dogs since 1997 and says it pays 100% of all costs associated with raising and training the puppies in prison.

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