Inmates Train Dogs to Help Vets

By on October 2, 2018

Prison Inmates Train Dogs to Help Local Veterans

Pals4Pets has been rescuing dogs from death row for the past 20 years. Laurie Norsen, founder of Pals4Pets, in conjunction with her volunteers have placed over 15,000 abandoned dogs into loving homes. 

Laurie began Pals4Pets when she was helping to place abandoned dogs recovered by the Orleans County Animal Control. In 2012 one of the worst tornadoes in United States history left a path of destruction in West Liberty Kentucky leaving many dogs displaced and roaming the streets. This crisis led Pals4Pets to begin working with disaster relief dogs. Laurie and her crew began working closely with the dog shelters in the area to help rescue the displaced dogs by getting them adopted into homes in Western New York. 

In 2016 while Laurie was picking up dogs in Kentucky she learned about a program called Wags to Riches. The program takes homeless dogs from death row to the Eastern Kentucky Corrections Facility Dog Training Program. Inmates, who often are on death row themselves, can participate in the program to train dogs to be companion dogs. The program is available to inmates who are on the honor block, which means they have to meet a certain criteria of good behavior to participate. 

The inmates have the dog for 6-12 weeks and work closely with their dog following a dog-training program that teaches them to become a good companion dog. Inmates that participate in the program are given awards based on how well the dog is trained and socialized. The program has been successful in helping to calm inmates and reduce fighting and violence in the prison. According to Laurie the program also helps bring a sense of purpose to the inmates as they build relationships with the dogs and help them transform into good social pets.

After Laurie saw the dogs that came from this program she wanted to help place the companion dogs with a sector of society that she felt could most benefit – veterans. In 2016 Laurie and Pals4Pets began fostering select dogs that graduated from program bringing them here to Western Monroe County for placement, free of charge, with Veterans in the area. 

Pals4Pets accepts applications from veterans for a companion dog. Upon interviewing they do their best to match the right veteran with the right companion trained dog. Veterans who struggle with PTSD and other implications from their service can often benefit greatly from the loyal companionship of a dog. “This is our way to say thank you to our Veterans,” Laurie said.

Pals4Pets has already placed ten companion dogs with local veterans. In some cases the veterans take the dog onto further training to become a full service dog. One of the veterans who received a dog from Pals4Pets has even trained his dog to parachute and rock climb with him. “It’s a win-win,” Laurie said. A dog gets a second chance in life, an inmate gets the opportunity and experience of a positive bond with a dog, and to feel the sense of purpose of helping the dog go onto a better life. And lastly a veteran who may be struggling with loneliness or PSTD can share their life and love with a loving four legged friend.  

Pals4Pets will have new prison trained dogs at the end of September and will be placing them with veterans. Applications are now being taken for veterans who are interested in a companion dog. Pals4Pets also helps place dogs in special needs homes, Seniors 4 Seniors programs, as well as family pet adoptions. To meet a volunteer from Pals4Pets and to see the dogs available for adoption, stop by Pet Friendly located on Manitou Road in Hilton Saturdays from 10am-1pm. The organization is always in need of volunteers and donations and pet supplies. 

For more information on adoptions, volunteering opportunities or to contribute visit their Facebook page: Pals4Pets Rescue or Petfinder website at or call 585-260-7665.

Provided Photos


Veteran who received a companion dog from Pals4Pets.