Albuquerque court orders veterans to unusual sentence


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Veterans in Albuquerque who run into trouble with the law face a new kind of consequence; they’re ordered to dog training to help turn their lives around.

Vietnam veteran, Stephen Cervantes, says PTSD landed him in Albuquerque’s Veteran’s Court. There, he was ordered to find help in this unusual way.

For the past year, veteran’s court has been teaming up with Assistance Dogs of the West.

“They learn how to train service dogs for other community members and other veterans,” said ADW Founder Jill Felice.

They’re training dogs that will help future owners with everything from seizures, diabetes, physical disabilities, PTSD and even some that will go on to serve the country.

Felice says she sees a difference in the veterans after they work with the dogs.

“They get to read a lot of the social cues off the dogs that lets them know that they are safe,” said the founder.

The group even took a trip to the noisy, state fair which is something most people with PTSD would never do.

“The guys were at ease with it because they had a friendly little being next to them telling them, you know what, the world is really okay right now,” said Felice.

Cervantes says without the program he would likely be in trouble again.

“I wouldn’t be out here like I am, you know. I could be up there on top of the hill incarcerated,” said Cervantes.

It’s not just veterans helping train the service dogs. High school freshman Bridget Simpson has been training dogs since she was eight.

ADW works with two Santa Fe schools where kids can train the dogs as one of their classes. There are also after school and summer programs.

Some of the dogs will then go to work at the courthouse helping young kids feel safe after they’re victims of crimes.

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