WENY News - Program teaches inmates to train shelter dogs

Program teaches inmates to train shelter dogs

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BATH, N.Y. (WENY) -- Every Thursday, inmates at the Steuben County jail look forward to  a new type of training. It's thanks to a new program that pairs them up with a rescue dog.
For the next month, the SPIRIT dog program will work to train inmates in a treat-based "clicker training."
By the end, both participating dogs will be ready for adoption.

"We see this as an opportunity to engage our inmates in a healthy protocol and engage our corrections officers with our inmates in a healthy protocol," says Steuben County Sheriff James Allard. "[It] also gives back to the community by giving them well-trained animals that can be adopted out."

Four inmates were selected for the pilot program. All will now take this new skill with them when they leave.

"It just gives you a purpose," says Karissa, a participating inmate. "It gives you something to look forward to [and] gives you something to work towards. It's just nice."

The dogs were also carefully selected -- based on previous training and needs. 

On Monday, both dogs will move into the jail for four weeks. During that period, the dogs will be on a regimented schedule with their handlers. For example, scheduled outside and feeding times. 

"Already we've seen a benefit in just the general attitude of the inmates that are involved and the other inmates that are watching to see if it's going to be a success or not," says Allard.

"You can see just from the one time we worked with [them], you can see a huge difference," says Karissa.

The program has been a success at several other area counties. In Erie county, for example, there has yet to be a dog who has not been adopted out.

"I think this is a fantastic program and I'm excited to bring it to Steuben County," says Allard.

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