Wednesday was graduation day for three rescue dogs who were trained by inmates to serve as companions for veterans.
The ceremony took place at 1 p.m. at the Camden County Correctional Facility in Camden, New Jersey. The first dog to graduate was presented to Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam War veteran Arthur Wimberly, Jr.
It was all part of a pilot program in which the Camden County Freeholder Board instructed the corrections department, working with One Love Animal Rescue, to train and care for companion dogs to be adopted by veterans who will give them a forever home.
“The opportunity to have inmates participating and learning a new skillset that will ultimately benefit veterans is a home run for public policy, and it is critical that we continue to find more innovative ways to support both communities,” Camden County Freeholder Jonathan Young, who serves as liaison to the Department of Corrections, said. “This progressive idea will also assist us in finding forever homes for animals from our shelter population."
New Jersey Senator Jim Beach (D-Camden/Burlington) believes the program is beneficial to both the inmates and the veterans.
“We know companion dogs can improve the quality of life for veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression," he said. "Creating a program that allows inmates to train these dogs for veterans will give them a chance to give back to the community in a meaningful way, but also to learn valuable skills as they prepare to re-enter society."