- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

YANKTON, S.D. (AP) - A truly beneficial partnership is one in which both parties receive something from the other.

That kind of partnership exists between Yankton’s Heartland Humane Society (HHS) and the Federal Prison Camp (FPC), the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan (https://bit.ly/2rCVfRS ) reported.

In January, HHS created the Federal Inmate Dog Obedience (FIDO) program, which allows inmates at the FPC to train dogs that are available for adoption.

The FPC has been working with HHS for several years through its community service program, in which inmates work at various businesses in the Yankton community. At HHS, they help feed the animals and clean the facility and crates in which the animals are kept.

According to HHS Director Kerry Hacecky, the kind of partnership that exists through FIDO has been something HHS has wanted to do for a long time.

“Every year when a new warden came to town, I would pose the question, ‘What would it be like to put the dogs on the campus?’” she said. “This year, we finally have a warden who was willing to listen. There were also some (FPC) employees who really wanted to see this happen.”

Through FIDO, high-energy dogs that come to HHS are housed at the FPC with 2-3 inmates for an eight-week period. During this time, the inmates teach the dogs basic obedience commands like “sit,” ”stay” and “down.” They also teach the dogs house and door manners, as well as how to behave on a leash.

The program was specifically made for dogs that wouldn’t find homes as easily as others.

“This is a really good fit for high-energy dogs that can’t find foster homes and are hard to kennel,” Hacecky said. “They don’t sell themselves when they’re jumping up and down in a kennel barking. They are the 1- to 3-year-old dogs that got dumped because they didn’t get trained. It’s no fault of theirs. They’re not dogs that have aggressive tendencies; they just need to learn basic manners.”

HHS FIDO coordinator Janette Kaddatz views the progress the dogs have made while in the inmates’ care.

“We give them guidelines to follow and show them how we want them to do it,” she said.

If the dog learns its commands before the end of the program, the inmates teach them additional tricks, she added.

So far, the program has served nine dogs, five of which have been adopted and one that is currently available for adoption.

It’s been fun to track which homes the dogs have gone to, Hacecky said. One dog lives with a retired couple and spends most of its days riding alongside the husband as he checks his crops. Another lives with a woman who takes the dog with her when she reads books to children at the library. Two live with families and another one regularly goes on runs with its owner.

The inmates also help with the adoptions, Kaddatz said.

“Every time a dog is adopted, they do a write-up of the dog explaining what they’ve done with them, how they’ve taught them and their observations,” she said. “They’re really dedicated to it.”

The inmates who take part in the program are part of the FPC’s educational program. Materials for the program, such as a dog training learning manual and supplies to care for the dogs, are provided by HHS.

Though no inmates were available to speak to the Press & Dakotan about their experience with the program, Hacecky said she has received positive feedback.

“We’re hearing good things from the people that work there, that they enjoy having the dogs there and they like to see the inmates working with them,” she said.

Kaddatz recalled how one inmate - whom she described as a “perfectionist” - was disappointed that his dog preferred interacting with her and the other people present rather than performing. Through her eyes, however, the dog did “amazing.”

“(The inmates) really take pride in what they’re doing, and it’s working towards educational credits for them,” she said.

Both the trainers and the trainees learn a lot during this time, she added.

“(The inmates) are watching videos, reading literature and coming to us asking if they can implement this, how can they do this and things like that,” she said.

The program is slowly growing, with two dogs taking part in the first eight-week program. The third round of the program that recently started has four dogs.

Dogs can graduate from the program if they show about 80 percent consistency doing their commands.

Hacecky hopes to see the program grow not only in the number of dogs, but also in the kind of training provided.

One such way is to have dogs trained as therapy dogs for people with both physical and mental illnesses.

“There’s a need in this area for legitimate therapy dogs that have gone through training to be a service animal for someone with special needs or a health concern,” she said. “We get requests from people all the time about where they can get their dog therapy-trained, and there’s no outlet close to Yankton. If we could bring 3-4 dogs into the community every year that are therapy trained, that’d be an asset.”

Dogs that enter the program are treated like any other animals under HHS’s care. They are spayed/neutered, microchipped and fully vetted with a health exam and vaccinations.

“Heartland is always looking for ways we can better serve the community,” Hacecky said. “The shelter isn’t just a place to bring your unwanted pet. We’re trying to do things outside of the normal shelter atmosphere.”


Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, https://www.yankton.net/

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