Kristen Bell in Bakersfield, visits detained juvenile girls


A local dog rescue brought in some star power to support a program for girls and dogs at Kern County Juvenile Hall. 

The program pairs girls at Juvenile Hall with rescued dogs for mutual support and today the group received additional support all the way from Tinseltown.

Actress Kristen Bell was in town seeing the dog program Juvenile Hall coordinates with Marley’s Mutts.

“I was curious to see how a dog’s training could take place in this facility,” said Bell. “But what I saw today was a group of girls who fought to get this position by working through arguments, personality differences, doing what’s best for the dogs and really putting some time and effort to train the dog.”

The program is called Pawsitive Change. It’s one of the projects within the Pathway Academy at Juvenile Hall, an in-custody rehabilitation treatment program for 23 female youth offenders.

“It teaches the girls responsibility and a chance to care for something outside of themselves,” said William Dickinson, probation division director at Juvenile Hall

Five out of the 23 girls were chosen to be a part of Pawsitive Change.

“They have to say ‘we want to be involved in this program,” said Zach Skow. This is a voluntary program that you have to earn, so they have to write an essay and be interviewed by us. It is a pretty thorough process.

The girls are in charge of caring for and training two rescue dogs. 

“It’s teaching us a lot of skills, a lot of responsibility, a lot of patience,” said one of the girls. “It’s teaching us a lot of stuff that we didn’t know.”

The program is 10 weeks long. The girls are on week seven. At the end of it, the dogs will go straight into the hands of their new adoptive families. 

“The people in here are getting life skills, the dogs are getting life skills, the people adopting the dog are getting a well-trained dog,” said Bell. No one loses in this scenario, it’s kind of perfect.

This program is a sister program to one that matches death row dogs with inmates inside California state prisons which was started three and a half years ago. 

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