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Dogs of the MDOC

Since 2009, the Department has partnered with Paws with a Cause, Leader Dogs for the Blind, various ability centers, and dozens of local animal shelters providing basic obedience training for nearly 3,000 canines. 

Each handler is chosen based on misconduct history and staff recommendation. Individuals interested in a dog program must submit an application and participate in an interview process before being selected. Once selected, participants are trained in providing basic obedience training, command training, pre-task training, and much more to the dog they are paired with. 

The MDOC's dog programs benefit the trainers, the facility staff, the communities, and the dogs. 

During training, if the dogs prove to be better skilled for a different type of service, they experience a career change. Canines trained in MDOC facilities have been placed with U.S Customs and Border Protection, Police Departments, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Crisis Response Dogs, and schools and hospitals for support dogs.

Currently, there are 26 active dog training programs taking place in 23 MDOC facilities. 


Leader Dogs for the Blind

Future Leader Dogs for the Blind are brought to prison when they are seven weeks old. The dogs will remain at the facility for 12 to 15 months, and are taught a solid foundation of skills including basic obedience, teaching the puppies how to eliminate outside on cue, calm and controlled greetings, and settling quietly in the midst of distractions.

Leader Dogs for the Blind prison puppies are trained at the following facilities: 

Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC)
Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF)
G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility (JCF)
Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF)
Macomb Correctional Facility (MRF)
Marquette Branch Prison (MBP)
Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF)
Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility (MTU)

Prison Puppies - Leader Dogs for the Blind
Image of a 7-week old black lab wearing a bandana that says: Future Leader Dog
Prisoners with their PAWS dogs

Paws With a Cause

After spending one year with volunteer Foster Puppy Raisers, Paws with a Cause (PAWS) sends their puppies to MDOC facilities, where they are specially-trained for people with physical or mental disabilities and children with Autism. The dogs learn basic socialization and obedience training, as well as on-leash training before returning to PAWS where they are educated on a specific service it was selected for.

Paws With a Cause Dogs are trained at the following facilities: 

Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF) 
Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility (LRF)
Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF)
Muskegon Correctional Facility (MCF)
Saginaw Correctional Facility (SRF)
Thumb Correctional Facility (TCF) 

PAWS Prison Partners

Assistance Dogs

Blue Star Service Dogs

Selected from shelters and rescues, Blue Star Service Dogs arrive at MDOC facilities and begin training to be a service dog for military veterans. Because veterans have unique qualities and needs, the dogs are individually trained to meet the needs of their veteran. 

Blue Star Service Dogs are trained at the following facilities:

Thumb Correctional Facility (TCF) 
Woodland Center Correctional Facility (WCC)
Saginaw Correctional Facility (SRF)


The Ability Center

The Ability Center Assistance Dogs (ACAD) program trains dogs to become service dogs, personal therapy dogs, or comfort dogs in schools. 

Ability Center Assistance Dogs are trained at the following facilities: 

Cooper Street Correctional Facility (JCS)
Gus Harrison Correctional Facility (ARF) 

Prisoners post with shelter dogs and with signs that says "Adopt Me"

Shelter Dogs

Nearly 1,500 dogs who were once considered less adoptable, had behavioral challenges, or a higher risk of returning to the shelter have found their fur-ever home after going through basic obedience and socialization training at an MDOC facility. 

Alger Correctional Facility (LMF) partners with Delta Animal Shelter through the Dawgz Adapt program.

Central Michigan Correctional Facility (STF) partners with Dalis to the Rescue through the Pawsitive Connections program. 

Kinross Correctional Facility (KCF) partners with Chippewa County Animal Shelter 

Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) partners with Refurbished Pets of Southern Michigan.

Newberry Correctional Facility (NCF) partners with Luce County Animal Shelter through the NCF Paws for Adoption program. 

Saginaw Correctional Facility (SRF) partners with Bay County Animal Care Center and Saginaw County Animal Care & Control through the Iron Paws program.


What are the Dogs of the MDOC taught?