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Dogs play part in rehabilitation at Acmena

THERAPY: Youth worker and canine behaviourist Jason Grimes (middle) with two Acmena detainees, two of the centre’s foster dogs, Chelsea and Penny, and Jason’s own dog, Blitz.
THERAPY: Youth worker and canine behaviourist Jason Grimes (middle) with two Acmena detainees, two of the centre’s foster dogs, Chelsea and Penny, and Jason’s own dog, Blitz. Georja Ryan

FOR some, this is the first time they have felt unconditional love.

The first time they have felt empathy, known responsibility and experienced the unique relationship between man and his best friend.

And for the detainees at Acmena Juvenile Justice Centre, it's one of the best parts of their day.

For 12 months, the centre has adopted dogs from the Clarence Valley Council animal shelter to be used in their Canine Companion Program.

The multi-faceted program teaches detainees how to care for an animal, but also a wealth of essential life skills, plus trains and prepares the dog to go to a good home.

Acmena Youth worker and canine behaviourist Jason Grimes said the impact the program had on the participants was positive.

"What we teach them is how to care for a dog, but also how to identify with an orphaned dog," Mr Grimes said.

"It teaches them responsibility and trust because they have to work to get the dog's trust."

Mr Grimes said dogs usually stayed for about six weeks at a time.

"When the dogs leave, that's when you really see their attachment and that empathetic response," he said.

One detainee, who cannot be named for identification reasons, said he loved spending time with the dogs, in particular a staffy named Chelsea.

"I love getting to know them and Chelsea just listens to me," he said.

"Penny (a dingo cross) was really jumpy when she first came in and was afraid of everyone but she isn't anymore."

While he said he would be sad to say goodbye, he "can't wait" until the dogs find a good home.

The detainees have training classes with the dogs at least twice a week as well as socialisation time playing on the oval.

The kennels that house the dogs were also built by detainees and staff.

Topics:  acmena juvenile justice centre, clarence valley council, grafton

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