From a report by Jay Scherder, KY3 News in Springfield, MO
In Licking, Missouri, a new program gives state prison inmates a chance to train shelter dogs. "Puppies for Parole" lets convicts prepare them for adoption, while repaying communities.
It's been a long time since Joe Denti has had the chance to pet a dog, let alone care for one. He's been incarcerated for 21 years. The program gives selected offenders like Denti the opportunity to become trainers to rescued dogs. "It's a very strict criteria," said South Central Correctional Center activity coordinator Tina Holland. "They do have to reside in our privilege unit, so they have to be conduct-violation-free for a year."
Other requirements involve education and anger management classes. "It's more than just giving back and helping out," said Denti. "It's also proving ourselves in being worthy of responsibility that's been given to us."
It's a win-win for the offenders, the dogs of the Texas County, MO animal shelter, and for the community. "This program definitely made a positive behavioral change and even some thinking changes," said Warden Michael Bowersox. "When they go back out, hopefully we'll see a different individual than what came into the system."
"I've created a lot of harm in my life and these dogs are out suffering and that gives me a chance to give back," said Denti. "For our shelter, which is a small shelter, it frees up space because they are a no-kill shelter," said Holland.
Training a dog can be a real challenge, from commands to house training. They also learn to sit, stay, shake, and roll over. Denti admits that it's rough at times but certainly has its rewards. "There's nothing better than seeing a dog smiling at you in the morning, first thing in the morning. You just can't beat it. It's priceless," he said.
So far, five rehabbed dogs have been adopted, and five have already been trained. The local animal shelter provides the food, dog crates and treats. This program is currently operating in seven Missouri state prisons.