Virtual training program aids prison pups’ future
THE important task of training assistance dogs has endured despite the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Serco has adjusted to the restrictions, ensuring prisoners can continue giving back to the
the Pups in Prison program, allowing prisoners to give back to the community by helping train the next generation of assistance dogs.
Southern Queensland Correctional Centre Prison director Nick Rowe said ADA and Serco have been training assistance dogs through the Pups in Prison program for more than 10 years.
It is run in partnership between Serco and Assistance Dogs Australia,
“Prisoners at SQCC train the pups to perform tasks that are difficult for those with special needs. The training takes approximately eight months and involves 24 hours a day, seven days a week care,” Nick said.
“The program also provides the prisoners with new skills, training and responsibilities, which support their rehabilitation and allows them to give back to the community.”
Once trained, the labradors and golden retrievers go on to support people with special needs, including those living with physical disabilities, autism, post-traumatic stress and dementia.
The pups in training have become a familiar sight around Gatton in recent years, visiting shops, libraries, and even the council office as they learn to socialise and deal with the distractions of daily life.
Following the announcement that all external visits would be suspended as part of the State Government’s Covid-19 infection controls, Serco’s team at SQCC have implemented a solution that enables prisoners to continue their training sessions with ADA.
“SQCC currently has five pups being trained by 10 prisoners. The challenge was to still facilitate the program and allow the pups to stay in the correctional facility while maintaining level three restrictions set by the Government,” Mr Rowe said.
“By using video conferencing technology, we were able to facilitate a virtual training session for our five primary puppy handlers and four ADA staff.”
The dogs are raised from puppies, with their training being an integral part of their upbringing, so ensuring the continuation of training is essential to making sure they can graduate as assistance dogs.
“During these extraordinary times with the spread of Covid-19 in the outside community, we’re grateful for the support of Serco to help us continue the Pups In Prison program,”
ADA’s Queensland Puppy Educator Supervisor Jacky Harper said.
“We have managed to engage the handlers in a new style of learning so they can continue to progress their skills and maintain their commitment to training the puppies inside the prison grounds.”
The virtual training sessions for the Pups in Prison program will continue throughout coronavirus restrictions, and Serco is looking to apply the same technology to facilitate other programs.