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Pawsitive Steps Program Pairs At-Risk Youth With Ventura County Shelter Dogs

OXNARD, Calif. – The Ventura County Probation Agency has announced the start of "Pawsitive Steps," a unique dog rescue/canine training program at the Juvenile Facilities in Oxnard.

The Probation Agency is working with PIVOT Animal Assisted Educational Outreach, in association with the Canine Adoption and Rescue League (CARL) on the canine program, which is set to begin in January 2017. The program name "Pawsitive Steps" was chosen by youth and staff at the Juvenile Facilities.

"The Pawsitive Steps program offers last-chance Ventura County shelter dogs and at-risk youth an opportunity to work together toward mutual rehabilitation. The program is designed to save shelter dogs and change the lives of at-risk youth," said Deputy Probation Officer Debbie Navarro. "The Pawsitive Steps program will help Juvenile Facilities youth develop personal and vocational skills through the career pathway component of the program. Youth selected for the program will learn patience, compassion, empathy, restorative justice principles, and responsibility by caring for, training, and ultimately helping find forever-homes for dogs."

Dogs will be selected from local rescue groups and the Ventura County Animal Services shelter. Over the course of 12-16 weeks, program staff will instruct Juvenile Facilities youth in canine training techniques. The dogs will reside full-time with the youth at the Juvenile Facilities. The selected youth, through the knowledge and skills they will acquire in the Pawsitive Steps program, will provide basic obedience, house training and socialization to shelter/rescue dogs. While helping to alleviate the rising number of dogs at local shelters, the program will also provide positive reinforcement training and socialization skills to the dogs; making them significantly more adoptable. The program will build confidence and compassion for our youth, improving their social skills, social competencies, problem solving skills, and communication abilities; while reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

At the completion of the program, the dogs will be available to the public for adoption. The program offers youth the opportunity to receive certified training that will help them find employment upon release.

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