In 2013, the Dogs for the Disabled was approached by prison governors interesting in getting involved with the charity. After initial talks it was felt that the buddy dog programme would benefit all parties the charity, inmates and the prison.

Shortly after, four young adult dogs were placed with four handlers within Shelton Abbey for a trial project and our community programmes developed from there.

Shelton Abbey: Mens Open Prison (Wicklow)

Shelton Abbey is a large old building on a six acre farm. Young adult dogs (1-1.5 yrs) are placed in Shelton Abbey following the completion of their socialisation period with their foster families. Each dog lives with a handler for the duration of training. On entering the Buddy Dog Programme, the men must attend weekly training classes with our on-site trainers and are taught all about dog behaviour, care and learning principles. Each week the individual handlers are given training tasks for their dog to learn.

Dogs reside at Shelton for three to four months, working with their handlers. This programme has been hugely successful for all involved, and has increased the number of assistance dogs Dogs for the Disabled can offer while reducing our costs.

The Dóchas Centre: Women’s Prison (Dublin)

Following on from the success of the Shelton programme, we were approached by The Dochas Centre as they were interested in getting involved with the charity. However due to the available space at the Dóchas Centre, we knew that the Buddy Dog programme would not work, so we put our thinking caps on and came up with an idea of placing breeding females in the Dóchas and we have not looked back since.

A breeding female is placed with an individual inmate and the dog lives with them in their room. The women are given all the support they need to ensure all the needs of both mother and babies are met. The puppies are whelped in the room under 24 hour supervision with a vet on call. From the moment the puppies are born they are handled and loved. Looking after new born puppies is a lot of work, as they often need additional feeding or care and there is a lot of cleaning up for the 7 weeks they are at Dóchas!

0-12 weeks is the most important time of any puppy’s life and we are delighted with the standard of care our puppies receive at the Dóchas Centre; they are all well-handled, clean, happy, healthy, confident puppies ready for their next adventure.