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 waiting 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 and become available for adoption at AWS’ Adoption Center. As with all adoptions, Paws in Stripes puppies are available on a first come, first served basis. 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.

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

Pawsitive Changes is an educational dog training program for at-risk high school aged students, run in conjunction with Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

Modeled after AWS’ successful Paws in Stripes, Pawsitive Changes pairs puppies with select student residents of Long Creek for six weeks of basic training and companionship. Puppies are housed directly with their student handlers, with pet daily care, socialization, crate training and house training becoming important responsibilities. By living directly with their student handlers, the dogs bring comfort to the residents and reinforce emotions such as empathy and compassion. AWS canine trainers offer weekly classes on basic obedience, showing the student dog handlers positive reinforcement techniques to teach good behavior, basic commands and tricks.

AWS’ Humane Educator teaches workshops that reinforce important life skills. Topics include empathy to animals of all kinds, careers in animal welfare, and animal advocacy. She leads lively discussions on topics such as breed-based discrimination, animal cruelty, proper pet care and more. By offering humane education in addition to dog training, this program provides ongoing reinforcement of social, career and life skills in a positive environment.

At the conclusion of the six-week program, the puppies are ready for adoption. The student handlers are part of the adoption process, preparing paperwork for the potential adopters and providing a journal to the pup’s new family, highlighting the student and puppy’s six weeks together.

This program, the first of its kind in the area, is a win-win for all involved. The puppies learn basic skills to best prepare them for their new families and the students learn important skills to help them be successful in their adult lives.