Puppies Behind Bars

"Puppies Behind Bars" trains inmates to raise puppies in their Service Dog Program for veterans and trains Explosive Detection Canines for law enforcement. The Backup Buddy program trains dogs for First Responders. Another program "Paws & Reflect Friendly Visiting Program" trains the dogs with homebound elderly in New York City to get used to oxygen machines, walkers, and more.

News stories and some videos are available from the Press Coverage page:

Read about Our Mission and History beginning in 1997 to date.

Programs and Applications

  • Service Dogs for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. Dog Tags®: Service Dogs for Those Who've Served US® was established by Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) in 2006 to provide service dogs to combat veterans returning home from Iraq (OIF) and Afghanistan (OEF) who have suffered a physical injury, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Labrador retriever puppies are raised and trained in prison from the age of 8 weeks until they are ready to be placed with a veteran, which is usually when the dog is between 20 and 28 months of age. When a puppy is matched with a disabled veteran, final training with the vet and the dog continues specific to the veteran's needs.

    Download the application for a Dog Tags®: Service Dog. (.pdf)

  • Backup Buddy® Service Dogs for Those Who Serve & Protect®. A long-standing relationship with first responders and law enforcement agencies.

    Since 2018, we have been breeding and training Labradors for our frontline First Responders. We want to thank you for the work you do on a daily basis and we want to help you, if you have Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) or physical injuries from the job, get back on your feet again. …By the time one of our dogs is paired with you, that dog has at least 10,000 hours of socialization, which means it has been to schools, libraries, houses of worship, baseball games, kids' football games, to the movies, on city busses and on trains, and in Manhattan for countless weekends. It means it has been exposed to so many different experiences and people, that it's learned to take everything in stride—so that you can, once again, as well. … because all our dogs are raised in prison, they have developed an empathy and responsiveness to humans which we have never seen in any other dogs. Our dogs live in prison with "puppy raisers," who are people who generally feel vulnerable and emotionally fragile. Our dogs learn, instinctively, to help people who need them. A lot of our first responders have hit rock bottom by the time they come to us: they may have tried self-medicating; their families may have fallen apart or threatened to; they are taking more prescription medications than they want to; they may have thought about or tried to commit suicide. And then they get a Puppies Behind Bars Backup Buddy® and for reasons, to be honest, that even we do not fully understand, their lives change. The dogs provide the confidence needed for our first responders to re-engage with their families and the world. Puppies Behind Bars pays for all the costs associated with getting a Backup Buddy®. We will provide a hotel room, transportation, and meals for the 14 days that we train you, at a facility in upstate NY, to become a team with your new dog.

    Download the application for First Responders. (.pdf)

  • Facility Dogs For Police Departments. Puppies Behind Bars provides facility dogs to police departments to assist with officer wellness and community policing. However, we do have conditions and a screening process through which we determine an appropriate match for one of our dogs. Our application screening process is a result of 25 years of experience of knowing what helps our dogs succeed and the quality of life they need to maintain in order to cope with the demands of working.  Updated

    We want to share some of the roadblocks and talking points we've run across with other departments who were incorporating a PBB service dog into their department. BEFORE you apply, please download and read the following document: Information for Departments to Consider before selecting an officer to apply for a service dog from: Puppies Behind Bars "Service Dogs for Those Who Serve & Protect"®

    Download the application for Puppies Behind Bars Facility Dogs. (.pdf)

  • Explosive–Detection Canine Program. In response to the attacks on 9/11, PBB began raising explosive-detection canines for law enforcement.
  • Adopt a Released Dog. Because the standards for our service dogs and explosive-detection canines are so high, some dogs do not complete the program for either behavioral or health reasons. These dogs will be released as pets for a charge of $6,000. They will come to you spayed or neutered, current on all their vaccines, and incredibly bonded to humans. The feedback we've received is that recipients never knew that dogs could be as focused on people as are ours. If interested in adopting, please complete and submit the application by e-mail or standard mail.

    Download the application for Released Puppies. (.pdf)

See the Volunteers page for information about how to help as a puppy socializer or a Paws & Reflect volunteer.