Opposition Progressive Conservatives are criticizing the Dexter government for money being spent on an inmate rehabilitation program at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

The pilot inmate canine therapy program began in December 2012 and will run until March. It’s called ‘WOOF’ which stands for ‘Working On Our Future.’

Correctional officers have been given training to in turn teach inmates to train dogs from the SPCA for adoption.

Five dogs are being trained right now at the Burnside jail.

Those who back the program say inmates learn valuable life skills they will carry with them when released, with the SPCA benefitting by having more dogs ready for adoption.

PC justice critic Allan MacMaster says he doesn’t dispute the benefits of rehabilitating inmates or using dogs to do so, but he does have a problem with the $26,000 provincial cost to taxpayers.

“At this point in time, I think it’s very insensitive for the government to come out and spend that kind of money on five dogs for people who’ve been incarcerated” MacMaster told the Rick Howe Show Wednesday.

MacMaster suggested taxpayer funds would be better used helping low income families with heating costs, or donating that money to food banks.

Justice Minister Ross Landry said the majority of the money was spent on training correctional officers.

The $26,000 is expected to be a one-time investment, and Landry said was within the correctional departments budget.

“People who suggest we should not try to rehabilitate offenders are forgetting that these people go back to live and work in their communities. Through this program, offenders can develop valuable skills that focus on rehabilitation so they are less likely to commit another crime,” Landry was quoted in a press release.

The Nova Scotia SPCA has says the program will help to alleviate the strain on capacity at their shelter.

When the pilot finishes in March, participants will be interviewed to determine the future of the canine therapy program at the Burnside jail.