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March 13, 2012

The following statement was given today in the House of Assembly by the Honourable Felix Collins, Minister of Justice:

Canine Therapy Program Continues to Grow at Correctional Facilities

Mr. Speaker, at the Department of Justice we recognize that it is important to think of new ways to help inmates and show that they have much to offer for the community from within correctional walls.

The canine therapy program is a prime example of innovative programs which help both the community and the inmate. This program was first offered last July at the Bishop’s Falls Correctional Centre and the West Coast Correctional Centre in Stephenville and it has grown in leaps and bounds. It has expanded to the Labrador Correctional Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women in Clarenville with great success.

Mr. Speaker, the program provides dogs with care and attention while giving inmates the opportunity to be responsible for a dog and its training. Some of these animals have had difficult experiences and require special attention in regaining trust. The dogs are assigned to a particular inmate, who has had to go through a screening process. Inmates are responsible for exercising, walking, grooming, cleaning, feeding and teaching the dogs positive and healthy behavioural habits with the hopes of the dogs being adopted in the community upon completion of the program.

Since the start of the program, over 35 dogs have been successfully adopted. This success is made all the more rewarding when you consider the therapeutic benefits of the relationship between the dogs and their trainers. We have seen positive impacts in the individual inmates and in their relationship with correctional officers.

Mr. Speaker, I especially want to thank the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the communities of Stephenville, Bishop’s Falls, Clarenville and Happy Valley-Goose Bay who have embraced this initiative wholeheartedly and have been instrumental in providing dogs for the program. In addition, I want to thank the correctional staff at the facilities and the inmates for their enthusiasm and dedication. They have made the canine therapy program the success that it is.

Since the 2009 release of Decades of Darkness: Moving Towards the Light, the Department of Justice has invested $7 million into revitalizing the Newfoundland and Labrador corrections system. This program is one example of innovative and successful programming that is part of that revitalization.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

2012 03 13             2:15 p.m.

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