A new program approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will unite shelter dogs in need of socialization with kids and teens in the juvenile detention system.

The partnership between Paws for Life K9 Rescue and Los Angeles County will allow for incarcerated youths to work with shelter dogs in hopes of helping socialize them and make them better candidates for adoption.

Advocates for the program say it will kill two birds with one stone, with the additional benefit of helping teenagers in the juvenile detention system have a sense of purpose and opportunity to move on from their previous transgressions.

Similar programs have been deployed at jails and prisons across the nation.

“Animal training, specifically training with dogs, has been demonstrated to provide multiple
benefits to detained individuals. The benefits of youth ‘trainers’ working with dogs include looking outward of oneself to care for others, personal responsibility for the dog’s well-being, learning to follow prescribed instructions to elicit desired behavior from the dog, working in cooperative groups, and date and time driven routines that are transferable to any employment opportunity,” wrote Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who brought the proposal to the board.

Hahn said the partnership with Paws for Life will create pathways for both the trainer and the dog to achieve “stability and comfort in their respective living arrangements.”

The partnership will last for at least one year and is expected to cost no more than $250,000 during that span, according to Hahn’s motion. The county’s chief probation officer will have the option to renew for a second year at the same cost, with the bill for both years expected to be covered by state revenue.

The proposal was approved unanimously by the board. The program will be first deployed at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.

Chris Murray, a trainer with Paws for Life, will be working with the kids and teens at the Nidorf facility. Murray himself was formerly incarcerated at the same center and he says he’s looking forward to bringing the program to kids in similar situations.

“It’s about time that programs like this be brought to these facilities and Paws for Life could not be a better program to start with,” Murray said. “It teaches maturity, which is what these young men and women need before they re-enter our society. It will help them to be safer, more productive citizens. It most certainly teaches empathy, kindness, compassion and remorse and actually gives them an entryway into showing what making amends looks like.”

In a news release announcing the passage of her motion, Hahn said that young people in L.A. County juvenile facilities need more to do to engage them in recovery and keep steer them from recidivism.

“The Paws for Life program is special and I hope it gives the young people an opportunity to not only learn new skills but find comfort and companionship with these shelter dogs,” Hahn said. “Each of these young people has so much potential and it is our responsibility to help them reach it.”