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.
Thomas assists the Orange County Probation Department in providing rehabilitative and job skills to incarcerated minors. While working with the youth, she instills in them a sense of purpose and empowers them to make changes in their lives. She taps into her knowledge and expertise to educate the minors in the fundamentals of dog obedience training, and upon completion of the program’s requirements, minors are awarded certificates recognizing their accomplishments. Thomas has also assisted minors in obtaining volunteer positions at local animal shelters upon their release so that they can continue to broaden their work experience. On several occasions, she has written recommendation letters to employers and community organizations, encouraging them to support the minors in furthering their education and exploring career options.
OC Animal Care also benefits from Thomas’ volunteer involvement. Shelter dogs that undergo the training and socialization provided by the PAW program are more likely to find permanent, adoptive homes with loving families, which reduces the likelihood that the animals will be euthanized.
Through her work with the PAW program, Thomas 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. Her volunteer efforts have had an enormous impact on the 30 minors who served in the PAW program, on the Juvenile Hall staff who work closely with the teens, and on the shelter dogs who have successfully completed training.