Federal Prison Camp in Duluth Welcoming Seven Puppies for Five Week Training

Can Do Canines is a Non-Profit Based in New Hope, Minnesota

DULUTH, Minn. – After a full year of nearly no visitors allowed due to COVID-19, the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth will once again welcome four-legged friends back into the facility this Thursday.

Can Do Canines out of New Hope, Minnesota, works with seven prisons across the state, having selected inmates to train new litters of puppies before they become service animals for folks in need.

“Some of these people haven’t seen a dog in years,” said Kaity McGinn, prison program coordinator for Can Do Canines.

It’s uncommon to see one dog, let alone seven inside a federal prison.

“You have ten to 20 guys with this litter who can give each puppy attention, meet their needs,” said McGinn. “We’re able to do all of this development for their brains, all of this socialization. They get to explore a new space instead of being in one house.”

She’s passionate about her profession and says the reward is unimaginable.

“Even though they only have those puppies for five weeks, they care so much about them. We bring up another litter, and they’re constantly asking for updates,” said McGinn.

When this new litter of seven puppies and their mother arrive in Duluth this week, they’ll begin a five-week stint living inside the prison. The fur babies will live with mom for the first week, but then that all changes come week two.

“Different handlers, inmates, will grab a puppy and take them out to go explore a different space out of the room, they’ll do individual training. This is where we can start doing create training so they learn how to play games with the puppies to go in and out of their kennels. They’re giving them kibble for a reward,” said McGinn.

The non-profit trains and raises assistance dogs that will soon be matched with individuals dealing with mobility, hearing, and diabetic issues. They also pair up with folks on the autism spectrum, and those who deal with seizures.

“Now the puppies leave the prison program at ten weeks, they’re already kennel trained, and already doing well with potty training,” said McGinn.

McGinn says it’s a win-win situation. The inmates can feel a sense of self-gratification, while the dogs achieve a high level of obedience.

“Them being able to get this unconditional love, something that’s not going to come in and judge them, that doesn’t care why they’re in there, they’re just there to give love and be trained and it’s so cool to see that,” said McGinn.

After five weeks, the inmate handlers will be separated from the pups after a strong connection is built – one that in return helps them build back better lives before returning to society.

“It’s just really rewarding to watch them grow and see them care, they’re so happy to be able to give back. I’ve had multiple dog handlers say, this program has changed my life,” said McGinn.

Can Do Canines has been operating for over 30 years.

Duluth is only one of two prisons in the state that takes the puppies for just five weeks. Other facilities keep the dogs for up to a year before they find forever homes.

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