Beach Bill Creating ‘Service Dog Pilot Program’ for Inmates Clears Senate

Senator Beach

Dogs Would Serve Veterans With PTSD & Other Conditions

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Beach that would create a pilot program in Camden County for inmates and former inmates, as part of the reentry program, to train service dogs for military veterans who suffer from PTSD and other conditions was approved today by the Senate.

“Service dogs help veterans cope with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder so they can restore their physical and emotional independence in civilian life, but they can also bring healing to inmates,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden/Burlington). “While the program will benefit our veterans and increase the availability of service dogs, it will also help inmates transition back to society by providing them with a valuable set of skills.”

The bill (S-2471) would establish a three-year “Service Dog Pilot Program” in Camden County for inmates or former inmates to train service dogs that would then be placed with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. Establishing the pilot program is intended to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of the program and the feasibility of expanding it to other counties across the state.

Animal training programs are operating in prisons throughout the country. In Washington State, all prisons operate some kind of animal training or adoption program, according to the state Department of Corrections. Four prisons in Washington have partnered with organizations that provide service animals to people with disabilities. Four correctional institutions in Massachusetts provide a program in which inmates train service dogs for military veterans in need, according to reports.

Under the bill, the Warden of the Camden County Correctional Facility, in consultation with the Commissioner of Corrections, would establish and administer the pilot program and provide a report to the Governor and Legislature upon completion of the program with a recommendation of whether the pilot program should be expanded to other counties in the state.

The bill would appropriate $150,000 from the General Fund to implement its provisions.

The legislation was approved by a vote of 37-0. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.