A new partnership between the TSA and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will allow a select group of inmates to help care for puppies that will ultimately serve as explosives detection dogs within TSA's National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program.

The Prison Puppy Program will allow four TSA-bred puppies to be housed in the Travis County State Jail in Austin for approximately one year. The puppies will reside in kennels on the prison grounds, where inmates selected to participate in the program will be responsible for feeding, cleaning and socializing the pups.

"TSA is excited to embark on this mutually beneficial partnership with the Texas prison system," said Scott Thomas, director of the TSA Canine Breeding and Development Center. "The prison is an ideal environment to socialize puppies with a variety of sights, sounds and smells, similar to what they will encounter in a transportation environment."

TSA's Puppy Program selectively breeds, raises and prepares puppies to be future explosives detection dogs. Dogs who graduate from training are assigned to airports and mass transit systems nationwide. The program is located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

The program is normally dependent on volunteer families in San Antonio and Austin to raise the puppies between the ages of 9 weeks and 14 months, before these puppies can enter the formal training program.

Thanks to the Travis County State Jail partnership, these puppies will experience a unique social environment, while providing companionship and a sense of responsibility for inmates who are paying their debt to society. After their prison stay, dogs that meet TSA's rigorous selection process will begin their formal training to be explosives-detecting canines.

The Canine Breeding and Development Center first bred dogs in January 2002, and the program has since produced more than 300 puppies. The mission is to produce approximately 80 puppies per year to help supplement needs of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program and other federal and state agencies that rely on these dogs.