The Second Chance Canine Program pairs shelter dogs with kids placed in juvenile detention.
The program is a partnership between Faithful Friends Animal Society in Wilmington and the Division of Youth Rehabilitative Services under Delaware’s Dept. of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.
“We can see these kids who’ve had a lot of harm in their life and been hurt, and the dogs as well have had those issues, who have not been adopted because of behaviors, and the two come together under Coach Mark’s leadership and it’s really great to watch it play out,” Deputy Director of YRS Jack McDonough said.
“Coach Mark” is Mark Tobin with Delaware’s newly-created Office of Animal Welfare. Tobin is a nationally certified dog obedience trainer and former police officer in New Castle County’s K9 unit. He runs the month-long program on the youth services’ campus.
“We bring in shelter dogs, we fix them so they’re more adoptable, and then we give these kids that are getting ready for a second chance, the ability to have a nice skill set,” Tobin said. “By the end, the bond was really strong.”
Tobin said not only were the dogs better behaved, but the kids also experienced a sense of accomplishment.
“I think the dog and them are on the same parallel. They’re looking for something, a second chance to make a difference,” he said.
McDonough said Second Chance’s goal is to affect positive change within the children under his care and their respective communities.
“That relationship that is formed while they’re here, it does kind of become a peaceful thing and I think they can bring that out in the community with them,” McDonough said. “The skill that they gain, they can use on the outside. And Mark’s going to try to help them get placed in those kinds of things, even a job.”
“It’s showing that anybody can change no matter what their past has been or what they’ve been through. You still can change and that’s basically the same thing with the dog,” Jamar Campbell, who recently graduated from the program, said.
“These dogs are listening to them and they feel successful, so they also have a sense of feeling successful. All great things to build their self-esteem and give them confidence for a brighter future,” founder and executive director of Faithful Friends Jane Pierantozzi said.
Pierantozzi said of the 21 dogs who have gone through the Second Chance Canine Program, all but one have been adopted.
The program is in hiatus during the winter, but McDonough said it will resume in the spring.