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Puppies Behind Bars Charity Rating

   Mar 04, 2024

CharityWatch is pleased to announce that we have recently added Puppies Behind Bars to our charity ratings based on our analysis of its audited financial statements and IRS tax Form 990 for the fiscal year ended 12/31/2022. CharityWatch assigned Puppies Behind Bars a final rating of “F” based on our “A+” to “F” rating scale due to the charity having years of available assets in reserve of 5.43 years as of 12/31/2022. This rating was downgraded from a financial efficiency rating of “A”. Our analysis concluded that Puppies Behind Bars spent 88% of its cash expenses on programs and spent $6 to raise each $100 of cash support in fiscal 2022.

Mission & Programs

The mission of Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) is to train incarcerated individuals to raise puppies to become service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, facility dogs for police departments, and explosive-detection canines for law enforcement. As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it.

Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) describes its program accomplishments in its fiscal 2022 tax filing in the following way:

“PBB trains incarcerated individuals to raise service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, and facility dogs for police departments in four correctional facilities in New York state. The dogs learn more than 90 commands to help their partners with daily tasks and to mitigate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. PBB then pairs the dogs, free of charge, with wounded veterans and first responders. The recipients receive intensive training on how to use their dogs, and PBB then provides extensive follow-up services. To date, more than 160 dogs have been placed with veterans and first responders through the program.”

“PBB raises explosive-detection canines (EDCS) for work with law enforcement in one prison in New Jersey and two in New York. An average of 40 incarcerated individuals take part in our program, raising 15 to 20 dogs at any given time. The training process takes approximately 10 months, and between 16 and 20 of these dogs graduate each year. Our EDCS have gone to work to detect explosives or accelerants across the United States. The Massachusetts State Police, Westchester County Police Department, and ATF are just a few of the agencies that use our dogs. They screen courthouses and other government buildings, check stadiums before ball games, and help solve arson cases and provide many other services to the general public.”

“Incarcerated puppy-raisers in our program become expert dog trainers and gain interpersonal skills as well. They must work as part of a team to solve problems, attend rigorous weekly classes, do written homework assignments, and maintain a daily journal of their puppies’ progress. Their literary and communication skills are enhanced, and they benefit from the unconditional love provided by the dogs as well. Rather than biding their time while incarcerated, the PBB program allows them to make a contribution to society that is a source of pride and self-confidence. Many are hired for dog-related jobs after parole. PBB currently employs four formerly incarcerated puppy-raisers as part of its full-time staff.”

Is Puppies Behind Bars a Top-Rated Charity?

Puppies Behind Bars meets CharityWatch’s benchmarks for financial efficiency and governance based on our analysis of its fiscal 2022 audited financial statements and IRS Tax Form 990. However, it does not qualify as a Top-Rated charity due to its years of available assets of 5.43 years as of the end of that reporting year, and due to not meeting CharityWatch's transparency benchmark. Meaning, this charity could continue to operate for 5.43 years at fiscal 2022 cash spending levels without raising another penny of donations or other revenue.

Giving is a fixed pie, remaining steady at about 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) since the mid-twentieth century. Because charitable dollars are limited and society's needs are not, it is vital that charities do not hoard the funds that they raise.

CharityWatch believes it is reasonable for a charity to set aside less than three years' worth its annual budget for financial stability and possible future needs. When a charity's available assets in reserve exceeds three years' worth its annual budget, CharityWatch downgrades its final letter grade rating. However, we continue to show what a charity's financial efficiency rating was prior to being downgraded for those donors who do not wish to factor a charity's high assets into their giving decisions. 

Read our article, Don't Judge a Not-For-Profit by its Profits, for factors to consider when assessing a charity's financial stability. See Our Process page for a detailed explanation of CharityWatch's treatment of high assets. 

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Puppies Behind Bars