Code of Practice - Care and training of assistance dogs in correctional centres


The aim of training assistance in dogs in correctional centres is twofold:

1. A vehicle to prepare puppies for future roles as service dogs for people with physical disabilities other than sight. This includes, basic obedience training, socialisation with people and external environments, animal hygiene, feeding and general management of the puppies.

2. To assist with prisoner rehabilitation, by having the responsibility of caring and training the puppies under their care while in the puppy raising program.

This code is designed as a guide for everyone involved in the holding and care of dogs in correctional centres. By adhering to the code, people involved in the program demonstrate to the general community their concern for the welfare of the animals in their care.

Animal welfare can be thought of as the way an animal's health and well-being are affected by its interaction with its physical and social environments. Since humans

can alter or control an animal's environment, it includes the concept that people have duties and responsibilities towards animals. The greater the level of interference with, or control of, an animal's environment, the greater our responsibilities.

The code is neither a complete manual on animal husbandry, nor a static document. It may be revised to take account of advances in the understanding of animal physiology and behaviour, technological changes, changing industry standards, and the community's attitudes and expectations about the welfare of animals.

The code has been prepared in consultation with Assistance Dogs Australia, Corrective Service Department and is endorsed by the NSW Animal Welfare Advisory Council.

1. Introduction

1.1 This code establishes guidelines for the care and management of animals/dogs in Correctional Centres.

1.2 It applies to the welfare of dogs/animals participating in the program.

1.3 The Commissioner of Corrective Services and/or the Minister will approve all programs implemented through the NSW Department of Corrective Services.

1.4 All organisations/companies involved in placing animals in correctional centres should be qualified to provide the service, registered, follow this document and be assessed for suitability by the NSW Department of Corrective Services.

2. Responsibilties of the registered organisation/company

2.1 The registered Organisation/Company of the program, in conjunction with the correctional centre, is responsible for:

(a) suitable accommodation and safety for the animals

(b) the training of all staff involved with the program. Initial training of 3-5 days is required, plus ongoing training throughout the program

(c) the selection process and selected inmates participating in the program

(d) participating inmates must not have any convictions for animal cruelty or history of animal cruelty.

(e) participant training manuals and training criteria

(f) initial orientation and placement of animal (duration minimum 2 days)and minimum bi-monthly visits to assess the program

(g) animal/participant assessments and testing

(h) measuring outcomes of the program at 6 monthly intervals

(i) the correctional centre should abide by the Code of Practice

(j) suitability and appropriate staff members to manage the program.

3. Responsibilities of the centre manager/staff

The Manager of the correctional centre is responsible for:

(a) assigning one primary staff member and two secondary staff members to oversee/manage the project on a daily basis

(b) the staff members a correctly trained to undertake the project

(c) allowing the registered organisation/company conducting the program to have access to the centre for follow up visits and training schedules

(d) provision of accommodation and equipment, which suits the physical and behavioural requirements of the animals, held.

(e) the selection process and selected inmates participating in the program

(f) participating inmates must not have any convictions for animal cruelty or have had a history of animal cruelty.

(g) the protection of animals from people not involved with the project, other animals or adverse environmental conditions

(h) provision of sufficient space for animals to stand, move around freely, stretch fully and rest when kennelled.

(i) The animals must be protected from extremes of temperature and drafts.

3.2 The assigned Staff Members of the correctional centre is responsible for:

(a) provision of sufficient quantities of appropriate food and water to maintain good health

(b) the selection process and selected inmates participating in the program

(c) provision of prompt veterinary or other appropriate treatment in cases of illness or injury.

(d) maintenance of hygiene of the premises and health of the animals held.

(e) supervision of daily feeding, watering and inspection of animals held to ensure their well-being.

(f) supervision of participants involved in the program

(g) collation and maintenance of relevant records

(h) supervision of animal training and socialisation as per the training schedule supplied by the organisation/company conducting the program.

3.3 The assigned Inmates of the correctional centre is responsible for:

(i) provision of sufficient quantities of appropriate food and water to maintain good health

(j) Calling for prompt veterinary or other appropriate treatment in cases of illness or injury.

(k) maintenance of hygiene of the premises and health of the animals held.

(l) Reporting program activity to the assigned correctional centre staff member.

(m) Collation and maintenance of relevant records under the direction of the assigned correctional centre staff member.

(n) Conducting the animal training and socialisation as per the training schedule supplied by the organisation/company conducting the program.

4. Animal housing

4.1 Location

Kennels should be located:

Away from sources of excessive noise or pollution that could cause injury or stress to animals. Away from inmate cells.

4.1.2 Kennel sites must have an adequate water supply and should be sewered or on a septic system.

4.2  Construction

4.2.1 Where kennel buildings/housing are constructed outdoors, they must:

protect from rain and wind

provide adequate shade

be partially enclosed to provide a sheltered sleeping area

be secured on top to prevent climbing escapees

4.2.2  Where kennels are constructed, temperature, humidity and ventilation should be appropriate for the comfort and health of the animals.

4.2.3 Kennel housing may be separated by either solid partitions, which help reduce noise, or by galvanised chain wire dividers. Advice should be sought on suitable construction materials for reducing noise, and fighting injuries between kennels.

4.2.4 The internal surfaces of kennels should be constructed of impervious, solid, washable materials. Wall/floor junctions should be sealed to facilitate cleaning and disinfection.

4.2.5 Floors of kennels should be made of an impervious material to assist cleaning and drainage. Sealed concrete is ideal, or sealed brick may be acceptable. Grassed or landscaped sections may form part of large outdoor runs but must be adequately maintained and not allowed to deteriorate into bare earth, which is unacceptable.

4.2.6 Exercise yards are to be provided of the kennel area for exercise during the day. This area has to be secure from unauthorised persons.

4.3  Size

4.3.1 Animal housing areas, whether for single or double housing, must provide enough space for each animal to feed, sleep, sit, stand, lie with limbs extended, stretch and move about, and sufficient additional space for bedding as required by Paragraph 3.9.

4.3.2 Trained staff must decide on whether pairs of dogs are housed together.

4.3.3 Animal housing should be of sufficient height to permit easy cleaning.

4.3.4 The floor space of the kennel is required to be a minimum of 3.5 square metres.

4.3.4 The secure exercise yard at a minimum 8 square metres per dog.

4.4  Drainage

Floors of kennels should be sloped to enable wastes and water to run off. A collection drain may be provided and fitted with fine mesh wire baskets to trap hair and waste. The baskets should be cleaned daily.

4.5  Temperature

3.5.1 Animals must be protected from extremes of temperature and the environmental temperature controlled to minimise distress to animals.

3.5.2  Very old and very young animals, which are more sensitive than others to changes in temperature, may require provision of heating or cooling.

4.6  Noise

3.6.1  Noise from barking dogs must be managed to comply with noise regulations and may be reduced by one or more of the following methods:

situating kennels so that they do not face each other

limiting external stimulation, eg. by partitioning between kennels or use of blinds

holding dogs singly or in compatible pairs

turning lights off after feeding

4.7  Lighting

4.7.1 Lighting should be as close as possible, in duration and intensity, to natural conditions.

4.7.2  Sunlight is the preferred means of lighting, provided shaded areas are available.

4.7.3 Artificial light should be provided, where needed, to allow animal housing areas to be thoroughly cleaned and dogs checked.

4.8  Ventilation

Ventilation should be adequate to keep animal housing areas free of dampness, noxious odours and draft free.

4.9  Bedding

4.9.1 All kennels should be provided with a raised sleeping area and sufficient bedding, appropriate to the breed, or trampoline-style beds.

4.9.2 Bedding provided for animals must be changed frequently and kept clean on a daily basis.

4.10  Security

4.10.1 Buildings housing dogs must be securely lockable.

4.10.2 Animals are required to be secured in their kennels when;

  • security alert at the centre
  • centre staff are unable to supervise them
  • the inmates are placed in their cells at night

4.10.3 Each individual kennel must be fitted with a secure closing device that cannot be opened by the animals held or by unauthorised people.

4.10.3 Any security methods used must allow for ready access by staff to animals and ready exit of staff and animals from the premises in the event of an emergency.

4.10.4 Fire fighting equipment must be readily available.

A security barrier should be constructed to prevent escape of animals or unauthorised entry. The kennel compound wall may form part of the security barrier, which must be fitted with at least one lockable gate.

5. Hygiene

5.1  Cleaning and disinfection

5.1.1 Housing and exercise areas must be kept clean so that the comfort of animals can be maintained and disease controlled.

5.1.2 Faeces should be removed at least once daily.

5.1.3  Kennels and associated housing or exercise areas should be cleaned daily, and disinfected at least once each week, before new dogs or puppies are introduced and after an outbreak of infectious disease.

5.1.4  Cleaning and disinfecting agents should be chosen on the basis of their suitability, safety and effectiveness. Manufacturer's instructions for the use of cleaning and disinfecting agents must be followed, since a too diluted solution may be ineffective and a too concentrated solution may be toxic.

5.1.6 After cleaning, animal housing areas should not be allowed to remain wet. Kennels should be dried with a mop or squeegee.

5.2 Pest Control

5.2.1 Pests, including fleas, ticks, flies, lice, mosquitoes and wild rodents, mites must be controlled.

5.2.2  Chemicals used for pest control should be registered under the Pesticides Act and used only in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.

5.2.3 Because dogs and humans may be adversely affected by pest control agents, expert advice should be sought before pest control operations are carried out.

5.3 Waste Disposal

5.3.1 Droppings, bedding, food wastes and animal bodies must be disposed of promptly and hygienically and in accordance with the requirements of the local government authority.

5.3.2 Use of a trade waste service for collection and disposal of wastes is preferred. Wastes should not be incinerated on site.

6. Management

6.1 Care of Animals

6.1.1  Animals are to be protected from distress or injury caused by other animals.

6.1.2  All animals must be identified via collar numbers and micro chipping

6.1.3 All animals must wormed, irrespective of presentation, on a veterinary schedule.

6.1.4 The following information relating to each animal admitted on must be recorded:

  • the animal’s name
  • the animal’s weight
  • emergency contact telephone number
  • a description of the animal including:
  • sex
  • breed or type
  • colour
  • age
  • distinguishing features
  • vaccination status
  • heartworm prevention status
  • name and contact telephone number of project veterinarian
  • details of medical, dietary, bathing and grooming requirements

6.1.5 Animals should preferably be housed singly.

6.2 Staff

6.2.1 Staff should report any concerns to primary staff co-ordinator immediately or secondary staff, if primary staff co-ordinator is unavailable

6.2.2 Staff should be aware of their responsibilities and competent to carry them out.

7. Health care

7.1 Disease Prevention

7.1.1  For dogs, vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and canine cough is required. A current vaccination certificate (certifying that vaccination was done within the preceding 12 months) must be produced for each dog before admission. Checking for heartworm infection is recommended prior to admission.

7.1.2 Other animals must be vaccinated according to their type

7.1.3  Animals passing worms will be wormed immediately.

7.1.4  Animals/dogs less than 8 weeks old should not be admitted in the program other than in exceptional circumstances.

7.2 Health Checks

7.2.1  Each animal shall be checked by nominated staff member at least once daily to monitor its health and comfort.

7.2.2  The person checking the animals should note whether each animal:

  • is eating
  • is drinking
  • is defecating
  • is urinating
  • is behaving normally
  • is of normal appearance
  • is able to move about freely
  • has a normal coat

7.2.3 Any changes in health status should be reported promptly to the correctional centre manager.

7.3 Veterinary Care

7.3.1 The correctional centre manager and organisation/company should establish liaison with a veterinary surgeon who is able to attend to any animals in his or her care, and is also able to advise on disease prevention measures.

7.3.2 The correctional centre manager or his or her nominee for any animal showing one or more of the following conditions must seek veterinary attention:

  • runny nose
  • runny, discharging or inflamed eyes
  • repeated sneezing
  • coughing
  • vomiting
  • severe diarrhea, especially if bloodstained
  • lameness
  • inability to stand or walk
  • bleeding or swelling of body parts (other than the vulva of a female on heat)
  • weight loss
  • no appetite
  • apparent pain
  • fits or staggering
  • bloating of abdomen
  • inability to urinate or defecate

7.4 Isolation

Facilities must be available either at the correctional centre, or at veterinary premises for isolation of animals that are suspected of, or have been diagnosed as having an infectious disease.

7.5 Euthanasia

7.5.1 Euthanasia should be considered where an animal becomes seriously ill or injured and where a veterinarian who has examined it recommends it.

7.5.2  Permission from organisation/company, preferably in writing, should be obtained.

7.5.3  Euthanasia should only be performed by a veterinarian.

8. Diet

8.1 Food

8.1.1 Animals must receive appropriate, uncontaminated and nutritionally complete and balanced food according to the accepted requirements for the breed and age. The food should be in sufficient quantity and of appropriate composition.

8.1.2 Canned and dry foods will form the staple diet.

8.1.3  Adult dogs should be fed daily. Pups up to 6 months of age should be fed twice daily.

8.1.4 Food should be prepared hygienically and served in clean, non-spill able containers.

8.1.5 Food should be stored appropriately, with dry food kept in a rodent-free place and fresh meat kept refrigerated.

8.1.6 Food containers should be preferably non-chewable and non-spill able. They must be readily accessible, positioned to avoid spillage and contamination by urine or faeces, and cleaned at least daily.

8.1.7 Uneaten food should be removed and disposed of promptly so that it does not spoil or attract vermin.

8.2 Water

Fresh water must be available at all times.

9. Exercise

9.1 Animals must have the opportunity for exercise to:

9.1.1  Allow them to urinate and defecate.

9.1.2  Give them contact with humans and, if appropriate, with other dogs.

9.1.3  Allow them to be checked over.

9.1.4  Let them stretch their limbs.

9.2 Exercise for animals/dogs

9.2.1  Exercise can be provided by:

  • allowing animals/dogs access to an exercise area for at least 30 minutes twice daily
  • walking animals/dogs on a lead for at least 20 minutes twice daily
  • Very active animals/dogs may require more exercise than specified.

9.2.2 Animals should not be walked on busy roads, but preferably confined on the premises for safety reasons.

10. Transport

10.1  Animals should be transported in the shortest practicable time. They must not be kept in parked vehicles in the sun or in hot weather unless adequate ventilation and shade is provided.

10.2  Any vehicle especially designed or regularly used for transporting animals should:

  • protect animals from injury
  • have non-slip floors
  • provide easy access and operator safety
  • protect against extremes of temperature
  • protect against unauthorised release of animals
  • be easy to clean and disinfect
  • have separate compartments or partitions for larger dogs. Transport cages should permit an animal to turn around, but be not so large as to allow the animal to be thrown about during transport.

11. Animal assessments

11.1 All animals in the correctional centre must be assessed for suitability for the intended vocation at the end of the training period. Initial assessment should take place at the age of six months, and the final assessment prior to departure from the correctional centre should be at 12 or 14 months of age.

11.2 The following criteria should be used to assess the suitability of the animal:

  • Suffers from separation anxiety
  • Aggression to other dogs or people
  • Poor working attitude
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Travel sickness
  • Fearsome
  • People orientation
  • Drive
  • Body sensitivity including feet and whole body
  • Health or medical issues

11.3 If any issues are reported in the six month’s assessment, these should be noted and reported on at regular intervals until the next assessment. If any issues raised in the first assessment are still apparent in the second assessment, the dog should be deemed to be unsuitable aa a future assistance dog.

11.4 Socialisation schedule

Weekly field trips from eight weeks of age in the local community such as parks, railway stations, shopping centres, etc.

Twice monthly the volunteer departmental officers should take the dogs home for 2 day weekends to socialise with a normal family.

The dogs should attend monthly obedience classes from 16 weeks of age to interact with other dogs.

11.5 Dog Selection

Breeds of dogs should be selected which can best provide the ultimate service to the end recipient. Typically these would be large breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd, etc.

Puppies from proven good temperament sire and dams should only be used.

12. Inmate assessment criteria

12.1 Volunteer Inmate Participants

A major goal in this type of program gives inmate volunteers the opportunity to learn valuable pet industry-related vocational skills to use in finding employment when they resume their lives outside of the correctional centre. The program provides these skills as well as team building skills and community involvement, all essential in the rehabilitation process.

12.2 Selection Process/Criteria

Each volunteer inmate must undergo a selection process, which will involve the registered organisation/company and correctional centre staff. Below is the initial assessment criteria for inmates who wish to participate in the pilot program;

1. Reside at current facility for at least one year on

2. No discipline problems for at least one year

3. Screened by security and counselling staff at prison

4. No heinous crimes (also exclude sex crimes and child-related crimes)

5. No history of animal cruelty

Once the potential participants have been identified the following should occur;

1. Each potential participant should complete an application form

2. An interview with the registered organisation/company and correctional centre staff

12.3 Correctional Staff Training

The attributes required for the staff member in charge of the daily operations for the project, is an officer who supervises the inmates, and more importantly one who positively influences them.

Staff from the registered organisation/company should train the appointed correctional staff member before and during the program. This will include an overview of the program with the desired outcomes, assistance dog training techniques and program management.12.4 Volunteer Inmate Training and Learning Outcomes

There should be reading and writing assignments, tests and homework, as well as frequent hands-on assessments. Inmate volunteers are expected to always behave in a professional manner, and in fact, should be asked to sign an agreement acknowledging their responsibilities to the puppy and program. Training manuals should be available to ensure consistency is maintainedSkills should be provided to the volunteer inmates through the registered organisation/company puppy training manuals. This should include training techniques related to assistance dog training and should be assessed through practical tests each mo