OC Animal Care and the PAW program will be featured in a PBS documentary airing this spring called “Shelter Me.” The special will be seen nationwide and will document the progress of three shelter dogs as they go through the program at the Orange County Juvenile Hall Detention Center. During the months of December through February, a crew filmed OC Animal Care staff and volunteers as well as staff and incarcerated youth (wards) at the juvenile facility as they participated in the program.
OC Animal Care and the PAW program formed a unique partnership in 2007 with the intention of helping to adopt shelter dogs by providing much-needed training. The training is provided by wards that are being housed at the Orange County Juvenile Detention facility a block away from the animal shelter. The wards have been selected by Juvenile Hall staff based on their behavior in the facility and desire to learn a new skill. Currently, there are nine wards assigned to the program, who work in teams of three to train their designated dog.
During the program, the teams of wards care for their assigned dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week for approximately three months at the facility. The wards provide basic care and training in all of the basic obedience commands (sit, down, stay, come, heel, etc.) for their designated dog on a daily basis. In addition, the wards participate in a weekly training class with the PAW program instructor, Janette Thomas. At the end of the training, a graduation ceremony is held and the wards have a chance to meet the adoptive parents of each dog and show off the skills that they have trained the dogs to do.
The dogs are selected for the program from the animal shelter two to three weeks before they are transferred to the juvenile facility. The dogs that are selected for the program must be able to interact with each other in a friendly manner and be receptive to learning new things. All breeds of dogs are considered. To date, more than 70 dogs have graduated this program and breeds have ranged from Miniature Pinschers to Labrador Retrievers. The success of this program for the youth and the dogs has been amazing! OC Animal Care hopes that the documentary will bring awareness to the community about the wonderful partnerships that exist between County agencies.