SPOT PROGRAM March 2006 MEDIA RELEASE
Working with the Mat Su Animal Shelter, Hiland Mountain Correctional Center (HMCC) began the Special Pet Obedience Training (SPOT) program in May 2006. The program is governed by a letter of agreement between the institution and the Mat-Su Borough Animal Care & Regulation Division
The program has been successful since its inception. HMCC prisoners have trained over 250 dogs, and the public has adopted just about every dog that successfully completed the program.
Selected prisoners partner with shelter dogs for intensive eight to 10-week obedience training program, resulting in dogs that are more desirable for adoption by the public. Dogs live in kennels that are kept in the rooms of inmates who train them. The dogs learn basic obedience skills including sit, stay, heel, shake and roll-over.
Staff at the Mat-Su animal shelter assesses each dog for suitability of temperament and the potential to be trained.
HMCC inmate trainers work with a service dog in training
In 2007, SPOT staff and inmates have developed the skills necessary to begin the process of specialized training for specific types of service. HMCC particularly geared the dogs for post trauma stress and mobility for wounded warriors. The program was based on a very successful service dog training program at Camp Lejeune. It is estimated that without volunteer time and labor from inmates, it can cost up to 38,000 to train a service dog of this type.
The program has demonstrated its ability to succeed as its first graduate; a lab mix named Wyatt, completed training and is now a service companion for a wounded warrior. The Military Order of the Purple Heart Alaska Department helped facilitate the match between Wyatt and wounded warrior Sgt. William Ondell Ft Richardson.
The second graduate, Levi a golden retriever/ shepherd mix who arrived at HMCC at the age of 6 months, shy and skittish although he had a certain something the lead trainer liked so he was carried over from the SPOT program as he was not yet adopted. Levi completed his training and was matched with wounded warrior, Specialist Martin K. Moxley Glennallen, Alaska.
The most recent graduate of the service program is Sha-Ren, a SharPei/Labrador mix who arrived at HMCC at 6 weeks old and was slated only for the service program. Up to the age of 9 months she advanced quickly and excelled in her basic obedience but could not be bothered to retrieve or hold items in her mouth. At what seemed like the eleventh hour of her service training she decided she could hold items in her mouth and she basically snowballed forward in her training. Being only 55 lbs and 22 inches tall she was smaller then her predecessor but still was capable of bracing for a human as well as carrying any objects asked to any destination requested. Sha Ren was matched with her wounded warrior PFC Garrett, Ft Richardson Alaska.