Second chances to the rescue
Paws on Parole success sparks collaboration, new opportunity for female prisoners
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.
There’s little question that Paws on Parole is a success. January marked graduation for the 24th class. That makes 144 dogs adopted out forever.
The program, one of six in the state, pairs inmates from the Gainesville Correctional Institution Work Camp with dogs from the Alachua County Animal Services shelter.
There are six dogs in every class who go to the work camp for eight weeks of training. The dogs leave as canine good citizens. It’s pretty apparent that the inmates who train them learn about being better citizens as well.
It has been so well received that Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell has gotten a $5,000 grant to begin a similar program with women prisoners at the county jail. That program is set to launch February 4.
They start with one or two women and one or two dogs.
“We look for the happy-go-lucky, silly pups” among the adoptable dogs at the animal shelter, says Alachua County Animal Services public education program coordinator Hilary Hynes.
Twice during their training the dogs take part in a meet-and-greet session with potential adopters. At graduation, they go home with their new family.
“We match the dog to the person,” Hynes says. “Adopters may fall in love with a picture of one of our dogs, but they must actually meet them. It’s all about what’s best for the dog.”
Darnell says the program about to begin at the county jail will offer female inmates the first opportunity to be part of an outside work crew.
“They will work with the dogs in a fenced-in area of the jail that is dog-appropriate and dog-friendly,” Darnell explains.
As in Paws on Parole, doggy graduates must meet the guidelines of the American Kennel Club to be certified as a “Canine Good Citizen,” meaning they will be a good social companion dog. They must walk politely on a leash, sit when they meet a person, stand still for an exam at the vet’s office, and react properly to distractions such as walking through a crowd or encountering another dog.
Hynes is pleased that the promise of a new program through the jail means more dogs will be taken out of the shelter and put into homes.
She has two German shepherds and “my little man, Truman, who is kind of an affenpinscher and the first dog I adopted from the shelter.”
Hynes describes Darnell as “one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, who’s always been right there whenever we needed help.”
“Sadie and her sister, Norma, are a couple of animal mushbuckets,” she elaborates. The sisters have been dog owners all their lives.
When Darnell’s last dog died of old age, she chose not to get another. But she and Norma rescued a dog running loose on Newberry Road. Officially, Norma is the owner.
“She’s retired, so she has the time to look after Cleo,” Darnell says. That’s short for Cleopatra, “because she likes nothing better than to lounge around.”
Darnell says Alachua County has earned a reputation as a pro-animal community that is striving to become a “no-kill” county.
“Humane treatment of animals is the way our society should be,” she says.