Prison Paws for Humanity's Unique Program - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Prison Paws for Humanity's Unique Program

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Inmates at the Montana Women's Prison have come to learn a lot from their unexpected companions behind bars, dogs.

The canines are there to inspire inmates, like Jessica Frasier, to take a new direction in their lives, all part of the Prison Paws for Humanity Program, which is closing in on its 9th year at the facility.

"After being down here I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian assistant, so that I could work with animals and maybe do some grooming, we learn how to do grooming down here," says Frasier.

Frasier is new to the 30-day program, but she says it's made a big impact on her life.

"You leave for five minutes and come back and its like you've been gone all day and they're so happy to see you," says Frasier.

According to inmate and three-year veteran of the program, Anne Stout, the inmates work with all types of dogs.

"I've developed as a trainer, the program's mission has changed a lot so we do a lot of rescue dogs, we do a lot of last chance dogs but we still do a lot of pampered pets as well so its a nice mixture," says Stout.

And according to Prison Paws Reentry Officer Bonnie Lusby, its become much more than a basic training program.

"Its been more challenging to the women instead of the what you call automatic dogs that sit, down, heel, we have a lot of them come in with behavioral problems. So they've got to read a lot more books, they've got to watch a lot more, they've got to do more classes, but its given them more of an expanded skill," says Lusby.

Inmates say they've learned its not just about loving the animal; it's also about gaining its respect. The dogs will also go through a "Canine Good Citizen" training, where inmates take the dogs through a skills test. The dogs are tested on accepting a friendly stranger, sitting still for grooming, and staying quiet, while the trainer walks away for a period of time.