ECI inmates train service dogs for veterans

ECI inmates train service dogs for...

WESTOVER, Md. - Inmates at Eastern Correctional Institution are looking to make disabled veteran's lives a little easier.

They're doing this by training the next generation of service dogs. Obedience and basic house manners are some of the many things the dogs will learn.

"They're here Monday through Friday,  and they train 24/7 in the cell with the inmate. They go to class with these guys," says Kellyn Layton, the Prison Puppy Advisor.

With help from officials of America's VetDogs, a national program that trains animals to service disabled veterans, inmates help train these dogs.
"A lot of veterans don't have limbs or have disabilities. So we teach them to retrieve things and bring them back," says Elliot Baumgardner, an inmate who is a part of the program.

"That could be anything from retrieving prosthetics limbs, retrieving medication," says Layton.

Inmates admit there are challenges when it comes to training these playful pups.

"They're no different than children laughing. That's how they are, they get stubborn, want to do what they want sometimes," says Baumgardner.

However, the end result is rewarding for the inmate.

"As a person it teaches you patience, and shows you that you can do things with people and get enjoyment from it," says Baumgardner.

"The person who gets the dog will probably unfortunately never meet the inmate, but the inmate does it for the particular individual  in the end, and that's the beauty," says Layton.

Officials of this program say they're in need of weekend volunteers to help out with the dogs. Trainers have outside volunteers take the dogs over the weekend, the reason for this is so dogs can socialize, but also apply the skills they learn to real life scenarios.

For more information on how to be a weekend volunteer, contact Lt. Paul Stephenson at 410-845 - 4091.

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