ICAN – Indiana Canine Assistant Network

ICAN – Indiana Canine Assistant Network

People with disabilities are often helped in life with specially trained dogs, who help them with day-to-day tasks and give these folks unconditional love and support.

Prison inmates in the Indiana state prison system are provided life and job skills while incarcerated – having the opportunity to train these special dogs to help people with disabilities. Dogs, inmates and people with disabilities all receive the bond of love.

The mission of the Indiana Canine Assistant Network is to train and place assistance dogs with children and adults with disabilities, while providing life and job skills to offenders who train the dogs for service work inside Indiana correctional facilities.

The nearly 2 year, 24 hour, 7 days a week offenders spend training the dogs can give a variety of professional and life skills. These skills help with a successful re-entry to their communities.


Within the correctional facility, carefully screened offenders who are living in both medium and maximum security facilities have the beautiful opportunity to spend nearly 24 months with hand-selected dogs to train them to become service dogs. The inmates who train the dogs with ICAN are called handlers.

The dogs spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with the handlers in the prison facility, learning skills to be approved service dogs. The handlers learn life skills such as responsibility, accountability, compassion, teamwork, pride in achievement, self-esteem, unconditional love, discipline, and how to use logic over emotion. Once the prisoner is released, these skills translate into life within a community.

The dogs do spend most of their 24 month training time within the prison walls side-by-side with their handlers. From time-to-time the dogs are released on furlough to participate in community programs as well as to orientate the dogs to life outside the prison.

The dogs assist a vast majority of people with disabilities. Some of the types of services the dogs are trained for are:

Mobility Assist Dogs: these dogs help with people who are in wheelchairs or are mobility challenged. These dogs have public access and are protected through the ADA.

Autism Assist Dogs: these dogs can help families with autistic children better cope with the struggles and frustrations of having an autistic child in the household. Many times, a child will bond with an assist dog over bonding with a parent or guardian – and sometimes a gentle touch from an autism assist dog can bring about stronger results than through human touch.

Diabetes Assist Dog: these specially trained dogs can smell the chemical changes that take place within the human body when blood sugar levels get too low and can alert the person or caregiver that the blood sugar levels are malfunctioning.

Facility Dogs: these dogs work in facilities with special needs populations, such as elders, special needs chilldrens and as therapy dogs.

Skilled Companion Dogs: these dogs help with tasks such as retrieving dropped items, balance support, etc.

Some of the dogs that do not have quite the right temperament to be assistance dogs, can be trained to work in drug enforcement, search and rescue or to become loving household pets.

If you would like to volunteer or make a donation to the Indiana Canine Assistant Network that improves so many lives, please read more ever.