Paws in Stripes

The Animal Welfare Society is proud to partner with the Maine Correctional Center (MCC) on an exciting and heartwarming program: Paws in Stripes.

This program pairs prison inmates at MCC with puppies transferred to AWS through our Paws Across America program. Once the puppies arrive in Maine, they are monitored for health, are spayed/neutered and receive necessary vaccinations. The puppies are then delivered to MCC and into the anxious hands of their inmate handlers. MCC officials select handlers based on exceptional behavior and willingness to learn.

The puppies spend six weeks with their handlers learning how to be a great dog. Weekly canine training classes are taught on site by AWS staff. By observing and participating in these classes, the handlers learn training methods that they reinforce daily with their charges, teaching the puppies basic commands. The dogs are housed directly with their handler, making housebreaking a priority. The pups play together daily in the yard, where they run in the grass and say hello to everyone. Being exposed to this new environment with its many new faces helps the puppies learn crucial adjustment and social skills.

After six weeks of training, the puppies graduate from the program and are ready for their new homes. At that time, several puppies will be available for adoption at a special adoption event held on the prison grounds. On the designated day and time, female handlers from the pre-release program meet with prospective families to help facilitate adoptions. AWS adoption counselors are on hand to finalize the adoption process, and the puppies go home directly from the Maine Correctional Center.

By helping with the adoption counseling process, the women in the pre-release program learn real-world hands-on customer service skills to aid them in their transition from incarceration to job placement. Adopters have the opportunity to hear first hand how their pups did in the program and learn interesting personality details from the folks who have spent the most time with them. At the time of adoptions, the new families receive a journal kept by their puppy’s handlers. It outlines their puppy’s growth, development and training skills learned for the duration of the program and is a cherished keepsake for the puppy’s new family.

Adoptions are first come, first served, but potential adopters must fill out an application in advance to adopt at MCC’s Adoption Event on the prison grounds. AWS’ Paws in Stripes Program Coordinator will notify the prospective adopters to let them know if they were one of the first applicants. The confirmation email will outline the date, time and location of the MCC Adoption Event, the prospective adopter’s place in line and any other necessary details. The MCC Adoption Event is not open to the public. Following the MCC Adoption Event, any additional Paws in Stripes graduates will be available at the Animal Welfare Society’s Adoption Center.

If you are interested in adopting a graduate from this program, please visit our Paws in Stripes adoption page to learn more about the process and when the next group of puppies will be available.

Paws in Stripes is a win-win for everyone involved – the inmate handlers, the pre-release program members, the prison staff, the puppies and their new families!