Project HEAL pairs shelter dogs with at-risk youth - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Project HEAL pairs shelter dogs with at-risk youth

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Tonight, the South Bend Police Department will host a graduation ceremony to celebrate the accomplishments of dogs and their kid trainers.

It's all part of a new program, Project H.E.A.L., that pairs at-risk youth at the Juvenile Justice Center with shelter and rescue dogs in need of adopting families. Detective Jen Gobel is the director of the program and says the dogs and kids work well together because they have similar backgrounds.

"They come from broken homes just like these dogs come from a lot of broken homes," says Gobel.

The goal was for the youth to learn empathy, compassion, basic humane education and animal care. In turn, the dogs learn more mannerable behaviors and skills that make them more attractive to potential adopters.

One dog was just hours from being euthanized when he was chosen for the program.

"He was literally walking down death row to be euthanized until Brad stepped in to say, 'We're going to take him.'"

Detective Jen Gobel says the program addresses two key community issues: teen violence and shelter euthanasia rates.

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