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 Inmates get a second chance training dogs

By Christopher Johnson

Some Chatham County, Ga. inmates are getting a new “leash” on life helping train some of man’s best friends.

More than half a dozen adoptable dogs are being taught basic obedience skills by inmates facing criminal charges. It’s part of a new Sheriff’s Office program called Operation New Hope. For four weeks, inmates serving short sentences for nonviolent misdemeanors live with dogs from the Humane Society for Greater Savannah, housebreaking and training them so they’ll be ready for adoption.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Sgt. Robert Brooks, who brought the idea to sheriff’s office brass. “Everything around an inmate is negative — the public perception of an inmate is negative, being in jail is negative; and this is an opportunity for an inmate to prove to the community that they have some self-worth and can put something positive back into the community.”

And as for the animals, Brooks said, being housebroken and obedience-trained will help their chances come adoption time.

When the program ends, the dogs will be put up for adoption through the Humane Society, and a new set of dogs and inmates will be introduced to one another. The sheriff’s office hopes the dog-training experience will open up employment pathways for the inmates through veterinary support, pet stores, kennels and the like.

Programs like Operation New Hope are sweeping the nation. Other programs, like “Dogs on Parole” in Alachua County, Fla. or “Shelter Dog Training Program” in Orange County, Calif. differ in how they’re run, but the goal is the same: to help inmates and the dogs they train turn their lives around.

Deputies in Chatham County say about 91 percent of participating inmates do not return to jail and the adoption rate for the dogs is nearly 100 percent.


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