March 12, 2015
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Published March 12, 2015
By: Wes Locher
To view the story online, visit: http://www.starfl.com/news/local-news/finding-fur-ever-homes-1.449633.
For the past five years the program has been a partnership between the Florida Department of Corrections, the Board of County Commissioners and the St. Joseph Bay Humane Society (SJBHS) designed to provide inmates of the camp an opportunity to work as trainers for the rescued dogs, teaching the animals basic obedience skills and transforming them into adoptable pets.
DAWGS not only helps save the lives of animals in need of a good home, but focuses on providing inmates with vital skills that will aid in securing them employment upon release.
Since the program’s inception, 390 dogs have graduated and 438 inmates have learned the skills of compassion, patience, tolerance and teamwork.
Warden James Blackwood said that 33 percent (1-in-3) of inmates released from the Florida Department of Corrections end up returning to the system after release, but since the DAWGS program began five years ago, that percentage is down to 27 percent.
“This program is fantastic. It gives something back to the dogs and our population as well.”
SJBHS shelter director Melody Townsend said the program allows her to handpick dogs to enter that may otherwise not be adoptable. By moving the pups to the forestry camp, it frees up 12 spaces that can be used for new animals coming in.
Those inmates who have worked their way up to the team leader or trainer level also receive the most difficult dogs to truly put their new skills to the test.
“The program is such a great concept,” Sunny said. “It offers rehabilitation and stability for the dogs, and offers just as much for the inmates. The program is doing good for all creatures, both two-legged and four-legged.”
For more information on the program or to see the profiles of dogs currently enrolled, visit www.dawgsinprison.com.
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs more than 22,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 146,000 offenders in the community.