Guide Dog puppies help with rehabilitation in Juvenile Justice Centre
It’s not often you find canines in custody, but for the first time in NSW, a Juvenile Justice Centre has been tasked with the important mission of helping two puppies become Guide Dogs.
The adorable five month old yellow Labradors, named Ziggy and Zephyr, are being cared for by four young offenders at the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre in Kariong.
“Through training the Guide Dog puppies, the young offenders are developing skills that may assist in their rehabilitation such as improved self-esteem, communication, team work, and a sense of responsibility,” Juvenile Justice NSW Executive Director, Melanie Hawyes said.
“It also provides them with unconditional love from the puppy and in turn increases their skills in empathy and nurturing for others,” Ms Hawyes said.
“By helping to provide these life-changing dogs to people with sight loss, the young offenders are given the chance to give back to the community,” she said.
While the four detainees are responsible for the training and care of the pups, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Puppy Development Advisors visit the centre weekly to provide support and training sessions.
“They’ve developed a strong bond with the pups and that really comes out in their training. Each time I visit the centre it’s very clear how dedicated they are to helping them progress,” Puppy Development Advisor, Kerry Chauncy said.
“The great thing about a puppy is that it does not know the difference between an offender and a model citizen. It responds to patience, kindness and consistency,” Ms Chauncy said.
The promising future Guide Dogs will remain with the detainees at the centre for around 12-14 months, before returning to the Guide Dogs Centre in North West Sydney for five months of intensive Guide Dog training. When this is complete, they will be matched with a person who is blind or vision impaired.
Guide Dog Services Manager, Paul Adrian, hopes the new partnership with Frank Baxter could help the organisation tackle its ever-growing waiting list for Guide Dogs.
“It costs more than $35,000 to breed raise and train one Guide Dog and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives less than three per cent funding from the government,” Mr Adrian said.
“The number of people with vision impairment in NSW and the ACT alone is estimated to be 122,000, and we anticipate around 50,000 people with sight loss want or need one of or more of the range of services we provide. With our aging population, we anticipate that this number will continue to grow, as will the demand for Guide Dogs,” he said.
Mr Adrian said it takes hundreds of hours to train the dogs, and the young offenders had the time to spend on socialising the pups and teaching them basic obedience.
Guide Dogs, like all of the organisation’s services, are provided at no cost to those who need them.