Paws For Life K9 Prison Program

In April of 2014, Paws For Life launched the first dog rehabilitation program in a men's maximum-security prison. Our inaugural cohort of trainers included fourteen men from the California State Prison-Los Angeles County "Honor Yard" in Lancaster. To join the team, the inmates committed to ten weeks of work: they had to share their lives with fifteen dogs from high-kill Los Angeles shelters. Working in collaboration with a trainer, the inmates–most of whom faced life-sentences–built dog runs outside their cell block, worked in shifts to care for, train and socialize the animals, and created a bridge to the outside world. All fifteen dogs earned their "Canine Good Citizen" (CGC) certification through the American Kennel Club, and the men were able to introduce the dogs to their new families.

Since 2014, Paws For Life has grown exponentially and expanded into three California State Prisons. With a quarterly enrollment of more than 185 trainers (in 2020) in our current training programs, Paws For Life is the largest dog training program in CDCR. As we continue to expand, more and more people who are system impacted will be given opportunities to participate in this life-changing program.

Since commencing in 2014, many of the Paws For Life graduates have returned to the community. We are proud to boast that some have gone on to work at non-profit organizations, become professional dog trainers, and business owners, while others have taken their experiences into fields which garner the lessons learned from their program participation.

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Former Governor Jerry Brown both have individually recognized the success of our programs. As of January 2020, twenty-one (21) Paws For Life participants have had their sentences commuted, most whom were serving life-sentences. This is more than any other program in the State.

Despite facing lengthy sentences behind bars, our trainers have forged a new model for rehabilitation and have set a precedent for other programs to follow: now there are seven such programs in prisons throughout California. By combining highly effective dog-training methods with proven rehabilitative models, we are truly saving lives on every level.

Meet Our Dog Trainers and Mentors

This training program prepares our rescue dogs to be Service Dogs for military Veterans with PTSD. Dogs learn to perform up to 60 commands and all the essential needs of an assistance animal. There is no cost to the veteran for their service dog.

Our trainers at the prison partner with our rescued dogs to teach basic commands, behavior and socialization. Over the course of the 12 weeks, prisoners and dogs prepare for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification, the gold-standard in canine obedience.