State Pen inmates train veteran assistance dogs - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

State Pen inmates train veteran assistance dogs

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By: Jenn Schanz

Nebraska State Penitentiary inmate Torey Kolter is taking on a unique task while doing time.

He's training dogs, all of them coming from shelters around the state.

"I think it gives you a chance to maybe think about something other than just yourself, which I think a lot of us have done for a long long time."

It's part of a special program through Second Chance Pups. They partner with Patriot Assistance Dogs to connect disabled veterans with traumatic brain injuries to dogs that can help them.

State Pen inmates take care of the training.

Kolter's been a trainer for 2 years. Daisy, a lab and shepherd mix, is his latest student.

"She really bonds with people. Like when you're healing with her, she likes to stay really really close with you," he says.

The pups get 9 weeks of training at the State Pen before they graduate in March. So far, Second Chance Pups has trained more than 350 dogs with the help of more than 200 inmate handlers.

In an overcrowded facility, inmates say heading to the kennel is a welcome distraction.

"It's a breath of fresh air to be able to come out of our units and be able to work with these animals. These dogs also alleviate the spirits of other inmates to bring up the overall morale," says inmate Robert Pardee. 

Second Chance has been training dogs for 10 years. Second Chance head trainer Paul Stromberg says the bond between the inmates and the dogs makes both of them better.

"It doesn't matter who they are, what they've done, what their past it. The dogs just love them. so it gives them a reason to want to do good in a place where it's hard to want to do good."

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