Janette Thomas – Second Chances Change Lives
Janette Thomas is the founder of the Pups and Wards (PAW) program, which teaches vocational and life skills to juvenile probationers 14 to 18 years of age and simultaneously improves the lives of at-risk youth and shelter dogs. The program contributes to the successful transition of juvenile probationers from incarceration to community reentry and benefits abandoned dogs through training and socializing that increases the likelihood of their permanent adoption by a loving family.
The PAW program helps rehabilitate minors by teaching them empathy, responsibility, and compassion. Probation youth live together with the animals in their care and are tasked with teaching basic obedience commands and performing potty, leash, and crate training. In return, the dogs teach their human companions responsibility, respect, and the rewards of unconditional love.
During the 18-week course, Janette works directly with the minors to train and care for the stray and abandoned dogs. She helps them to understand dog behavior and to identify common maladies suffered by certain breeds. She offers the youth a well-rounded education that focuses on animal obedience training, but also develops job skills that they can apply to future employment.
Through her work with the PAW program, Janette volunteers approximately 40 hours per month with OC Animal Care, and since signing up to volunteer with the Probation Department in 2009, she has dedicated more than 6,000 hours of service, working directly with incarcerated juveniles. Her commitment provides important therapeutic benefits to at-risk youth so that they can lead more productive lives and also helps socialize shelter dogs, which increases their chances for future adoption.