Incarcerated people in Florida are learning how to communicate, take responsibility, and show compassion by bonding with incarcerated dogs, according a Valdosta (Georgia) Daily Times report.
The Hamilton Hounds Program at the Humane Society of Valdosta/Lowndes County partnered with the Hamilton Corrections Institution in an effort to stop unnecessary euthanization of dogs.
“It helps save these dogs out of shelters and possibly being on death row,” said lead trainer Katie Rooney of North Florida Paws.
Ten prisoners work in pairs with five dogs to get through this obedience training course. The participants attend 15 classes that last between an hour and a half to two hours.
The dogs are kept at the prison with crates sitting next to the handlers’ beds. The prisoners are tasked with caring for the animals 24/7 to build connections.
“The dogs and the prisoners have to bond and the dogs need that security,” said Rooney. “This is their home, right now, and their family and they feel more secure if they’re with their family in their home environments,” she said in the article.
Although the prisoners are training the dogs to be family pets, this program teaches both parties about the value of connecting with and appreciating family.
“They’re just so absolutely in love with their dogs that it’s changing so many things for them emotionally, and they’re thinking about things, the mistakes that they’ve made…that kind of put them here and the difference they’re making in the dogs lives,” said Victoria Grindle, lead handler for the Humane Society.
“It’s been proven in other programs that if the guys even spend one night without
effect on them emotionally, almost like a depressive thing,” Grindle said, according to the Times article.
The Humane Society lists the adoptable dogs online and families apply for adoption.
The incarcerated dog handlers are extremely inquisitive about the adoption process. They want their dogs to get a good home, according to Grindle.
“They are so impactful to the prisoners,” Rooney told the Times. “It changes them in that they are now responsible for something other than themselves; they have to make sure that they’re providing the care and safety, as well as training and behavioral qualifications for these dogs so that they can be placed, and the love they receive is just amazing.”
At the end of the program, a graduation is held for the dogs and handlers, according to Grindle. The handlers will showcase the training techniques they taught their dogs. Families will then meet the handlers and take their dog home.
The program has had a tremendous impact on the lives of families across the state of Florida, the story said.
“It’s making it a brighter place,” said Grindle. “Everybody’s just getting that added benefit of having dogs around.”