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DJJ Adds Second Pet Therapy Dog


August 27, 2013




Meghan Speakes Collins                                                       


(850) 544-5387                                                                      




DJJ Adds Second Pet Therapy Dog

Canine Comfort Program expands to Southwest Juvenile facility in Fort Myers

Fort Myers,  Fla. – Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters made good on her promise to bring more pet therapy dogs into DJJ facilities. As part of the department’s Canine Comfort Program, the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Myers will soon welcome a new resident – an 18-month-old hound/lab mix with a playful and loving personality. 

Like DJJ’s Miami therapy dog, Justice, DJJ adopted its newest addition from the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, a non-profit organization that took him in after he was found abandoned on the side of I-95. 


Meghan Weinberger from the Big Dog Ranch Rescue is ecstatic that DJJ is using rescue dogs for this unique role. 


"We are thrilled DJJ has chosen to adopt rescue dogs for its Canine Companion Program. Dogs have a tremendous capacity for love and this pup is particularly lucky because he will get to play with and bring joy to countless youth and staff throughout his lifetime at the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center," Weinberger said. 


The new pup was adopted Aug. 2 and has spent the last three weeks  training with Miami Dog Whisperer, Richard Heinz, at the Horse Country Dog Training Facility in South Miami where he is learning basic commands such as sit, stay, come, heel and down. He is expected to join the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center in the coming weeks, and the youth and staff will begin helping him prepare for the pet therapy certification examination immediately. 


Heinz, who also trained Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center Pet Therapy Dog, Justice, said choosing the new DJJ dog was easy.  "He made us choose him by his playful, loving personality," Heinz said. "I think he's going to be great for the kids, and the kids will be great for him. He reminds me a lot of Justice.”



As part of the Canine Comfort Program pilot, Justice arrived at the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center in January 2013; on June 29, 2013, less than six months later, he passed his exams and earned his official therapy dog certification. Since Justice joined the Department, the detention center has noted a significant improvement – the use of "isolation" for bad behavior has dropped 50 percent. After witnessing the positive impact Justice had on the youth in Miami, DJJ decided to expand the program. 


The Department expects more Florida juvenile justice facilities to introduce therapy dogs in the coming months.



South Region Director Dr. Gladys Negron said, “Justice has been an immense comfort to the youth who have experienced trauma, loneliness, anger, aggression and sadness, and, as a result, has helped the staff who work with them. I am overjoyed that more of the youth in our care will now have the opportunity to experience the benefits of a therapy dog.”   



There are many more canine companions looking for forever homes at Big Dog Ranch Rescue. To learn more, visit www.bdrr.org





*** PHOTO CAPTION: Bottom, From left, Miami Dog Whisperer Richard Heinz, MDRJDC Superintendent Daryl Wolf; Top, from left, Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center Acting Superintendent Sharon Shore, South Region Director Dr. Gladys Negron.***