FETCH Feature Story

Who’s training who?

Dogs are typically not allowed inside the Juvenile Detention and Assessment Centers, but in January, 2015 four furry friends walked past security at the Central Valley JDAC and into the hearts of juveniles and staff alike.

Dixie the Pit Bull, Kenai the Siberian Husky, Denali the Australian Cattle Dog mix, and Oreo the black Labrador Retriever mix are part of a probation canine program called Focused Educational Therapy with Compassion and Healing, or F.E.T.C.H. The program targets high-risk youths at the JDACS, including those with special, emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs. The goal is to assist in the rehabilitation process of youth through character building activities. 
“As a dog owner, I understand how dogs could be therapeutic by improving one’s mood and health condition,” said Probation Corrections Supervisor I Bernadette Galicia, who helps oversee the F.E.T.C.H. Program. “My partners and I wanted to start this program in an effort to help the youth—especially those with emotional needs—cope with stress and anxiety issues. We also believe a dog program could improve the youth’s socialization skills, a tool they could use when they are released from detention.”
“Participation in the program is aimed at reducing anxiety and strengthening a youth’s leadership abilities,” said Probation Corrections Officer Jairo Chamorro, who is also part of the F.E.T.C.H. team. The Department’s Detention Corrections Bureau partnered with professional dog training service Dances with Dogs for the program. Val Cornwell, Rhonda Sweetman, and Kathy Barnes own the dogs used in F.E.T.C.H. and volunteer their time to help youth work with the animals.

F.E.T.C.H.’s first 6-week session was a success - the first graduation was held on Feb. 24, 2015 and 13 youth earned their certificates. 

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