Canine therapy program to improve offender behaviour

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HALIFAX – A new program will give offenders valuable life skills to help keep communities safe when the offenders are released.

The pilot canine therapy program, which began in December 2012 and will run until March, will have Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility offenders working with corrections officers to train dogs that need additional training and socialization before adoption.

Similar programs in correctional facilities in other jurisdictions, including Newfoundland, have reported improved offender behaviour and has eased pressure on the SPCA.

"Our objective here is clear; to keep communities safe," Justice Minister Ross Landry said in a news release Wednesday. "People who suggest we should not try to rehabilitate offenders are forgetting that these people go back to live and work in their communities. Through this program, offenders can develop valuable skills that focus on rehabilitation so they are less likely to commit another crime."

A number of rehabilitation programs are offered in Nova Scotia, including literacy programs.        

The province is investing about $26,000 in the canine program to train staff and inmates, and for dog assessment and monitoring. The SPCA pays medical and care costs for the dogs.

"The officers involved in this program are very excited about the opportunity to work with offenders in a positive way," said Capt. John Landry, Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. "This is already having a positive impact on the difficult work we do."

At the end of the pilot, SPCA, correctional officers and offenders will be interviewed as part of an evaluation to determine future direction of the program.

"This program will help dogs with special needs become ready for adoption, and alleviate capacity strain at our shelter," said Kristin Williams, executive director of the Nova Scotia SPCA.

"The SPCA is committed to helping as many animals as possible find their way into loving homes. This program will ensure the safety of the animals and help them overcome they obstacles they face to finding those homes."


Organizations: Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia

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