The New Leash on Life Project places rescued homeless dogs at the Juvenile Detention Center to be obedience trained by carefully selected juveniles housed at the center.
The dog training program, taught twice a week by volunteers from the Humane Society of Southwest Louisiana under the supervision of a certified dog trainer and the American Kennel Club, teaches the juveniles how to obedience train dogs during an intensive four-week course.
The juveniles volunteer and are selected based on a number of criteria. The juveniles are told that the project is a privilege, and therefore must be constantly earned. The dogs live at the Juvenile Detention Center and the juveniles must care for them 24/7, while learning how to train the dogs in basic and advanced obedience, and making sure the dogs are healthy and happy.
Every time a new juvenile enters into the program, he or she is welcomed with a handshake and congratulations for being willing to save a life. They are also told that now that they have saved a life, that life is in their hands.
Dogs that are not immediately adopted will remain in residence at the detention center and learn advanced skills that will help them become ready for the possibility of becoming service animals for hospitals, nursing homes, or law enforcement. Not only does the New Leash on Life Project give a second chance to these rescued dogs, it also educates the juveniles on dog training, dog grooming, pet therapy, animal first aid, and veterinary assistant skills.
The purpose of this project is to first and foremost rehabilitate both the juveniles and the rescued dogs. The project will provide the juveniles with positive responsibility: the life of these dogs is in their hands, and the dogs will give back unconditional love for the effort. In return, the juveniles will provide the community with dogs that are ready to be wonderful family members and invaluable service animals.
Programs like this in prison and detention facilities throughout the country have resulted in positive behavioral changes in the juveniles, better contacts between staff and juveniles, and increased caring and vocational skills. Juveniles say they feel less anger and stress as they work with, and learn to love and care for, their animal partners. In many cases, the dogs may be the juvenile’s first experience with another living creature built on trust, where no abuse ensues.
SEE THE LEASH ON LIFE PROGRAM IN ACTION IN THE VIDEO BELOW: