How rescue dogs are helping county inmates

How rescue dogs are helping county inmates

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For the last four weeks, six female inmates have been training three rescue dogs inside the Shelby County Division of Corrections.

It is part of a new program designed to improve inmate’s life skills and decrease the number of dogs in local shelters.

Anthony Alexander, the director of corrections, said the dogs are with the soon-to-be-released inmates 24 hours a day to help them become more compassionate, caring and motivate them to do something different.

“We have to change the lives of the individuals that we incarcerate here in Shelby County. We just cannot send them out into the community the same way,” said Alexander. “This program is beneficial to them and to the staff here at the division of corrections.”

Ashley Holland and Melissa Mackey are responsible for Alfalfa, a nearly one-year-old pit bull mix that is living in their dorm.

“We train him, we play with him. He does have a schedule,” said Holland.

Mackey said she was afraid of dogs before she started spending time with Alfalfa. However, the canine interactions have been therapeutic, and she is even considering training dogs when she is released.

“It’s taught me consistency and responsibility,” said Mackey. “It’s going to help me to be consistent with my kids and animals of choice at our house.”

Harley Berry and Destiny Worley have been working with a spotted pup named Crab Ragoon.

Berry was incarcerated nearly four years ago and has 31 days left of her sentence. She said the dog training sessions have taught her patience and the rewards of hard work.

“Seeing them come from the shelter makes you realize that they don’t get all that much attention. So seeing them get all this with us, it’s great to do this. We get to help them,” said Berry.

The PAWSitive Dog Training Program is a collaboration between the Shelby County Government, the Humane Society of Memphis, and Shelby County and Allegiance Canine dog training school.

The Humane Society hopes it will help them get more dogs out the doors.

The inmates work with a trainer two days a week and have taught the dogs how to walk on a leash, sit, roll over and heel. The Human Society says even basic training can make a dog more adoptable.

Skyler Davis and Mary Collins said they’ve learned about teamwork training Bruno. There are still two weeks left in the program, but Bruno has already been adopted. They said it would be hard to let the dog go.

“But I’m glad he is going to a good home, and we helped him get there,” said Davis.

The Shelby County Division of Corrections hopes to expand the program to change more lives and help inmates learn real-life job skills.

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