Year of the NEADS Dog Month 5 – Veterinary Care in Prison

YOTD Month 5

This month, our Year of the NEADS Dog series, in which we highlight the transition our Service Dogs in Training make during their first year with us, focuses on the all-important veterinary care of the pups in prison. While day-to-day monitoring of the pups’ health falls to the inmates and the prison liaisons, NEADS has a multi-layered system of veterinary services in place that ensures the puppies stay healthy and receive the best care possible when needed.

To start, each of the 7 prisons that are part of our Prison PUP Program has one or more general veterinary practices that donate services for NEADS dogs. When services like acute care, vaccines, spay/neuter, and hip and elbow x-rays are needed, our prison liaisons take the dogs to those vets.

Five prisons also have monthly in-prison veterinary clinics. Local veterinarians donate their time to get background clearances, undergo volunteer training with the prison, and then enter the prison once a month to work with the inmate handlers to address the medical needs of the pups. They update vaccines, address minor issues like ear infections, and help manage chronic problems.

These in-prison clinics have multiple benefits:

  • the dogs get timely care without prison staff needing to leave the facility the for routine visits;
  • there is direct and more accurate communication between the vet and the handlers;
  • the vets enjoy working directly with the inmates; and
  • the inmates learn from the vets and enjoy being treated as knowledgeable caretakers of the dogs.

For minor concerns in between vet clinics, NEADS has veterinary technicians on staff to help troubleshoot issues and give guidance to the prison staff, trainers, weekend puppy raisers, and inmate handlers.

Finally, NEADS has arrangements with emergency and specialty clinics that discount services to support each prison. Overall, there is a lot of veterinary expertise – much of it donated or discounted – to support our pups in prison!

See the whole Year of the NEADS Dog series here.