It seems like everyone I know can recall a story about an abused or abandoned dog or cat. Sometimes, an animal is abandoned because their owner is unable or unwilling to care for it, feed it properly and ensure the animal is properly vaccinated. Other times, the animal is taken to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region or sold through sites like

Those looking for a pet often browse at retail stores like Pet City and PetSmart or look for a breeder online. They ask questions and try to determine as much as possible about the temperament, background and breed of a dog or cat before deciding whether to buy and take home as a family pet. Once the animal is home, many new pet owners aren’t sure how to train their animal and ensure it’s friendly and social with both people and other pets. It’s not unlike having one’s first child and trying to figure out appropriate boundaries at different developmental stages. Ensuring a pet doesn’t bite, lunge, jump or nip in an aggressive or threatening manner is essential, especially in a neighborhood. Puppies are especially time consuming, and sometimes, people aren’t prepared for the time and attention a puppy requires.

Fortunately, in Colorado, there’s an additional option for new pet owners. Through a program of the Colorado Correctional Industries (CCI), dogs are trained and socialized, then made available for purchase to individual pet owners. For example, in the correctional facility in Cañon City, inmates are selected to take care of, train and raise dogs. The Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program operates throughout the state and must meet stringent requirements.

Each dog in the program is hand selected and tested for an appropriate temperament. Some dogs are donated through shelters and other animal rescue programs. The dogs’ ages and breeds vary, and most of the dogs are sold as family pets. Dogs are matched with an inmate who is responsible for the dog around the clock, including participation in all phases of the training. The dogs are given basic obedience training for behaviors like “sit” and “stay,” greeting people and crate and house training. Some dogs learn hand signals, participate in agility training or engage in other types of confidence training.

Another option is the “Boarding in Training” program. Private owners pay a fee for their dog to receive the same type of socialization and training as those in the K-9 Companion Program while their dog stays at the facility for a minimum of four weeks. The program fills in advance and registration ahead of time is required. Upon completion of the boarding program, owners receive full training instructions, as well as a history of the animal’s training. Dogs must be at least 16 weeks old to participate in boarding training.

In addition to the benefits for the animals, the program provides adult offenders with the chance to learn new skills and earn a salary based on performance in the program. Inmates can also earn certification in Canine Behavior Modification. Costs are covered through the adoption fees.

Since 2002, this program has rescued, trained and provided more than 7,000 dogs to new owners. There are five locations in the state for this program, the closest being in Cañon City. Available animals can be viewed at Appointments to visit the program must be made several weeks in advance. The program’s facilities are licensed under the Department of Agriculture’s Pet Animal Care Facilities Act.

Comparing the cost and benefits of training, initial veterinary care and adoption fees may make this the most beneficial choice for many dog owners. If you’re planning to adopt a pet, this program is an option to consider.

Julie Richman is a freelance writer, project manager and consultant. She and her family have lived on Colorado Springs’ northeast side for 21 years. Contact Julie with comments or ideas for her column at

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