by Shannon Teper
Looking for a highly-trained, fully-vaccinated, well-groomed dog who is eager for a loving home? You’re in luck! The most recent graduating class from the Prison Pups N Pals program will soon be available for adoption. This group of ten homeless dogs from Halifax Humane Society began their quest for forever homes with a seven week training program taught by inmates at Tomoka Correctional Institution. Each pup teamed up with a prisoner assigned to help his new canine pal become a well-behaved companion to a fortunate new owner. Living full-time in their trainers’ cells helped dogs learn the social skills every indoor pet needs to have. Through daily practice sessions, prisoners also taught their pups to follow basic obedience commands,
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like ‘come’, ‘sit’, and ‘heel’, working toward the goal of earning the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Certificate.
“They are street dogs and they become little ladies and gentlemen,” said Allyn Weigle, from West Volusia Kennel Club, who, along with Marj Blomquist, is a founder and coordinator of Prison Pups and Pals. The idea behind the program is to find good homes for dogs who might otherwise be overlooked by potential adopters.
When the Halifax Humane Society selects the lucky dogs who get to participate in the program, they look for dogs that are hard to place, not because they are aggressive or ‘bad dogs’ in any way, but simply because of appearances. So many lab mixes wind up in shelters that it’s hard for them to stand out to potential owners. A dog who is a bully mix has to contend with an undeserved negative stereotype. The bright dogs selected for Prison Pups N Pals show their true colors and get welldeserved attention as they quickly learn not only basic obedience commands, but how to do tricks, maneuver an agility course, and even track a scent. The current class is the program’s eighth. With each group of dogs, the men at Tomoka Correctional Institution become more experienced trainers and are able to teach
additional skills to their class of canine students. “Day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year, we’re getting better and better,” said James Quarterman, Lead Trainer, who turned down a transfer so he could stay with the program. “For me personally, it’s about seeing the dogs excel.” The prisoners involved in the program are committed to the training and care of their dogs. They have to be--it’s an around-the-clock job. In addition to taking on responsibility for each dog’s training,
prisoners are also taught to groom their pups and monitor their dogs’ health under the direction of a veterinarian from Halifax Humane Society, who treats any medical problems that occur.
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