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Across the United States, the number of prison-based dog training programs (PDPs) has increased substantially over the past several years. Currently, there are approximately 255 PDPs across 47 states that operate in a variety of correctional settings; however, there is little information available on how to successfully develop and implement a PDP. As a result, the research team from the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) has developed a standard protocol to help guide PDP development and implementation.

This report identifies common practices of PDPs and incorporates both general and context-specific recommendations that were gathered from interviews with PDP staff, relevant literature, and content experts. In total, 21 interviews with 20 programs were conducted. PDPs were asked about several program features, including policies and procedures, key personnel, funding, materials, physical spaces, supervision and monitoring, safety considerations, animal welfare, handler selection and training, and program benefits.

This report highlights the benefits of PDPs to dogs, humans, prisons, local communities, and society as a whole and identifies challenges related to funding, staffing, and operating in a correctional setting. Findings from the protocol point to the importance of planning, staffing, communication, internal support, and training curriculum in successful program implementation.


Housed within the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver, the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) is an internationally recognized center for research, ethics formation, and clinical training, as well as a respected source of scientific and scholarly information on human-animal connections.