July 8, 2009
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
The first class of DAWGS (Developing Adoptable dogs With Good Sociability) graduated on July 8, 2009 from Gulf Forestry Camp. DAWGS brings together shelter dogs with inmates and gives each a second chance to succeed. DAWGS are trained by inmates at Gulf Forestry Camp, who were themselves trained by a professional dog trainer in the hopes that they may find gainful employment upon release from prison.
“This program is a WIN-WIN situation for the agency, inmates, dogs, and the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society. We are fortunate to be able to form a partnership with such a good organization for such a good cause. This program helps the inmates learn a skill and assists in providing homes for the dogs. I am proud of this endeavor and look forward to many successful graduating classes,” said Gulf CI Warden Randy Tifft.
The St. Joseph Bay Humane Society provides the dogs, funding, administrative support and is responsible for the placement and adoption of the DAWGS. All the dogs are homeless and many are "Last Chance" dogs.
Each dog is obedience trained by state inmates during an eight-week period. They are taught how to sit, stay, come and walk without pulling on a leash. All are housebroken and crate trained, heartworm negative, up-to-date with vaccinations and spayed or neutered. Adoption fees start at $150; out-of-state adoptions cost more due to interstate travel requirements and expenses. For more information about the program, contact Sandi Christy at (850) 814-8156 or visit their website at www.dawgsinprison.com.
The eight graduates, six of whom are already adopted (including Hank, pictured above), will be replaced by a new class almost immediately. The program is expected to graduate 60 dogs over the next year.
There are currently four inmate dog training programs in the Florida Department of Corrections. One each at Wakulla CI near Tallahassee, Taylor CI in Perry, FL, Gainesville CI and Gulf Forestry Camp in Wewahitchka, FL. Classes last from six to eight weeks, and are designed to provide dogs with obedience training and inmates with a useful skill upon release, along with a chance to give back to society.
Currently one of every three inmates released from the Florida prison system returns to prison within three years. Through programs like DAWGS, the Department of Corrections is focusing on teaching inmates viable job skills that will lead them to productive jobs and law-abiding lives upon release.