Training program gives dogs, inmates ‘New Leash on Life’
BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. (AP) — Two dogs are starting the next chapters of their lives after being taken from shelters and trained through the New Leash on Life program. The women who trained them are also getting back on their feet thanks to the program.
Friday night, the program celebrated the newest graduates, Granger and Pike, a pair of dogs staying for the moment at Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue in Fletcher, but who program organizers hope will soon find a forever home.
The program is a collaboration of the Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women and Charlie’s Angels, hoping to find permanent homes for dogs that were likely headed for euthanasia by finding women inside the correctional center to train them into adoptable pets, at the same time giving women experience with a skill.
Kim Smith, with Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue, said her organization got involved with the program about six months ago. She hopes to begin an eight-week cycle of graduating two dogs from the program and then starting two new dogs.
It’s a chance to save dogs that are essentially on death row, she said, and provide women inside the facility with a skill set they can use once they get out to help them find a job and get back on their feet.
Dogs chosen can range from 9-month-old puppies to fully grown 5-year-old dogs, she said, but dogs are chosen that likely don’t have a chance at making it out of a facility otherwise.
Once it gets close to time for the current set of dogs to graduate, Smith said they go to the county shelter and find two unruly dogs, who may be a bit aggressive or lacking in manners training, and pick them for the program.
The first two dogs that went through the program with Charlie’s Angels are now living with their forever homes, she added.
Friday night, Granger and Pike graduated, and two new dogs, Beans and Boomer, headed off to start their classes.
Mark Patneaude, with the Swannanoa Correctional Facility for Women, said the women really enjoy and love working with the dogs, taking them everywhere except back to their rooms for the night or in the dining hall and chapel.
“It’s seven days a week,” he said. “But they just really enjoy and love working with the dogs, especially seeing the progress that the dogs make.”
More than 100 women apply for the program but only four are chosen, and officials try to pull from those who have also participated in the facility’s pet tech program. Those four women work with a volunteer trainer, Lezlie Stein from Handle With Care Dog Trainer, and a Charlie’s Angels volunteer.
The four women — two main trainers and two assistant trainers — love the program, Smith said, falling in love with the dogs. They follow up to make sure they’ve made it to their forever homes.
At the end of the 12-week program, the dogs receive their Canine Good Citizen certificate, another valuable experience to put toward an animal care career for the trainers.
That certificate is an official American Kennel Club program and one that the dogs must pass a test in order to earn, Stein explained.
The hope, Patneaude said, is that the dogs will be adopted before they graduate. The Department of Corrections operates dog training programs inside multiple facilities.
Information from: Times-News, http://www.blueridgenow.com