Prison inmates train dogs for struggling veterans

A local program is using prison inmates and shelter dogs to help veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s called Canines with a Cause. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) -- A local program is using prison inmates and shelter dogs to help veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s called Canines with a Cause.

The program started at the Timpanogos Women’s Correctional Facility more than four years ago. More than 280 veterans have been helped, 280 dogs rescued and an estimated 25 inmates benefited.

“She’s helped me probably way more than I’ve helped her,” Bobbie Widdiman, inmate and dog trainer said about her dog, Hazel. She has been training the 6-year-old golden Labrador for two months.

Widdiman has been a part of the program since its inception. Now she’s a leader with the group and helps encourage some of the newer inmates in the program.

“It gives me purpose to do something, get up and go outside, continue to live a life, think about tomorrow; what am I going to do tomorrow because now I have another living being that I am responsible for,” Widdiman said.

The women work with the dogs around the clock. They feed them, walk them and bath them. The dogs even sleep with the inmates in their cells.

“They are good trainers. They know about dogs, they’ve researched. They have a library here that’s provided, so they read. They are very knowledgeable,” said Cathy King, executive director of Canine’s with a Cause.

Not only is the program enriching the lives of the prisoners, it’s rescuing dogs. Most of the dogs come from kill shelters. Some were saved just days before being euthanized. King said it’s a win-win for the dogs and the inmates, but especially for the veterans.

“They’re saving these dogs that are eventually going to somebody who may be on the brink of suicide because of their PTSD and everything that they’ve seen in war,” King said.

The program has proven so successful, Canines with a Cause is expanding to Carson City, Nevada. There incarcerated veterans will help train dogs for other veterans.


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