Female inmates at Alachua County jail join Paws on Parole program

In this Jan. 4 file photo, inmate Curt Raub demonstrates Scraps' training during the graduation of the 24th Academy of the Paws on Parole program, which brings together shelter dogs from the Alachua County Animal Shelter and inmates who train them at the Gainesville Work Camp. Now women in the Alachua County jail will train Paws on Parole pups, too.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.

The Paws on Parole program run by Alachua County Animal Services will allow female inmates at the Alachua County jail to train dogs. Both inmates and the dogs they train will learn skills that could benefit their future outside the jail.

Behind the jailhouse in a grassy area, about a quarter of an acre large, dogs will learn obedience and good behavior skills on agility equipment similar to ones used at a dog show.

Two female inmates will have the opportunity to train the dogs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the 60-day program. They will learn basic dog grooming and canine health care.

Sheriff Sadie Darnell said officials have noticed that inmates are more tolerant, nurturing and easygoing while at the jail compared to before they came to jail, and by bonding with animals, they learn those traits.

"It does show great benefits. It helps the inmate become a better person," Darnell said.

Darnell said the female inmates were chosen to take part in the program because females don't have as many work-detail programs available as do the male inmates.

"It's truly a privilege to earn the ability to work with the dogs," Darnell said.

After completion of Paws on Parole, the dogs will be tested to see if they meet the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen standards, in hopes of getting them adopted.

Paws on Parole started several years ago with male inmates through the Florida Department of Corrections. Dogs and inmates have now completed the 60-day training program 24 times. This marks the first time the program has involved female inmates.

The main goal of the program is to increase the rate of adoption of dogs at the Alachua County Animal Shelter. It also provides experience and education in dog care for inmates. The program is funded through a $42,632 grant.

Sheriff's Lt. Lee Hudson said the female inmates with minimal crimes are eligible to become trainers. Their criminal history, institutional behavior and the severity of charges against them are evaluated before they're considered.

Then, they go through a double interview process.

He said the women need a positive attitude and the ability to perform the training techniques to work with the dogs.

The female inmates in the program leave with greater discipline and feelings of self-worth, said Hudson. They can market their dog-training skills and apply for jobs at places such as animal shelters, Hudson said.

None of the dogs will fail the program, he said. "We will have successful graduates."

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