September 1, 2011
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Contact: Gretl Plessinger
WHO: Reporters are invited to the latest graduation ceremony of the first-ever inmate dog training program in Florida for heartworm positive dogs -- the Heartworm Assistance Rehabilitation Training (HART) program. The dogs are trained by state inmates at Wakulla Correctional Institution’s Work Camp near Tallahassee. All of these dogs were formerly heartworm positive and have been cured. Reporters will have opportunities to film the dogs, to interview the staff and inmates, and to be there when the coveted “Top Dog” award is announced.
WHEN: The graduation takes place on September 13, 2011 at Wakulla Work Camp at 10:00 a.m.
WHAT: H.A.R.T.’s purpose is to provide a place for heartworm positive dogs to complete their recovery following the heartworm shot regiment, which is administered offsite. The dogs are taken through bonding and stationary obedience exercises during the recovery period, which is a few weeks after they get to Wakulla CI. After the recovery period, the dogs transition to moderate obedience training, and then to full active obedience classes and socialization exercises. At the conclusion, the dogs are heartworm free, healthy, well-trained and available for adoption.
WHY: Currently one of every three inmates released from the Florida prison system returns to prison within three years. Through programs like H.A.R.T., 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.
DEPARTMENT CONTACT: If you wish to attend the H.A.R.T. graduation ceremony, please contact the Department of Corrections’ Communications Office at (850) 488-0420 several days before the scheduled graduation, as background checks will need to be completed.
OUR COMMUNITY PARTNERS: To adopt a HART graduate, contact the Leon Community Animal Service Center’s Lisa Glunt at (850) 891-2950 or go here to find out more http://talgov.com/animals/hart.cfm. Adoption only costs $150 – a bargain since you won’t have to pay for dog training! The heartworm treatment is administered by a volunteer veterinarian and the medication is paid for by the Animal Service Foundation and Merial Limited.
DIRECTIONS TO WAKULLA WORK CAMP: From I-10 take Exit 199 (US-27 South) through downtown Tallahassee, the town of Woodville (US-363, Woodville Hwy) and across the Leon/Wakulla County line. Turn left onto Commerce Boulevard (first paved road on left after the County line). Go approximately 4½ miles on Commerce Boulevard and turn right on Melaleuca Drive. Follow the road until it dead ends at the work camp with parking on the left.”