Detainees at Western South Dakota Regional Juvenile Services Center eat lunch in their pod. Youth housed in the jail may soon be training dogs for adoption through a new vocational class.

Youth housed in the local juvenile jail may soon be training dogs for adoption through a new vocational class.

The program is still being planned but could be up and running at the Western South Dakota Juvenile Services Center next month, said Commander Joe Guttierez.

“It could be a win-win. Now, they’ll have some dogs that will get some attention and some training and get them ready to be adopted, and on our part the juveniles will get the opportunity to learn a new skill,” Guttierez said.

Dogs would be brought to the center, which houses detainees ages 10 to 21 who face state or federal charges, through a partnership with the Humane Society of the Black Hills. The facility is said by Guttierez to be one of only three in the United States that takes federal detainees. 

Executive Director Jacque Harvey said the plan for now is to bring five to six dogs in each week for a one-hour class. Humane Society volunteers, she said, will work with the center's youth to teach the dogs basic obedience skills like responding to commands.

By training animals, Harvey said they stand a chance to learn values like patience, self-control, communication and trust. 

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"The dog has to trust them, too. It goes both ways," Harvey said.

She said that the dogs could reap the additional benefit of becoming better candidates for adoption by exploring new places and meeting new people.

The Black Hills Humane Society does not currently offer such a program in the Pennington County Jail, though Harvey said she hopes to extend it to other local correctional outfits in the future.

Juveniles already have vocational opportunities at their disposal in the form of classes and in-house work. Guttierez said the dog-training program would not only teach them another discipline but possibly allow them to form relationships with shelter volunteers.

Detainees would have to apply for the program and remain in good standing if accepted, Guttierez said. Misbehavior could result in their removal from it.

Guttierez said the class won't cost the center any money to implement.

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