DAWGS in Prison graduates 23rd class

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 09:32 AM.

“They’re dogs with whom we share our world and they’ve committed no crimes, but they will be punished unless someone steps forward and gives them a second chance.”

Last week, the DAWGS in Prison program graduated another 11 dogs from an eight-week training program aimed at turning abandoned or unloved dogs into the kind of pets any family would enjoy.

The day is bittersweet for the inmates, who in teams care for the dogs 24/7 while also training them for their “forever home.”

“That is the part that hurts most,” said one team leader. “But knowing that he goes home to a better place, somewhere that he’s going to be loved unconditionally for the rest of his life … it doesn’t bother me that much.”

The upside is that later on the day of graduation, a new class of 11-12 dogs will arrive at the Gulf Forestry Camp for their journey to new homes.

The 11 dogs graduating last week were destined for new homes in Florida, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut. DAWGS in Prison has placed dogs in 14 different states since 2009.

Nearly 300 inmates have participated in the program, moving up the organizational ladder within each team from caretaker to handler to trainer to team leader.

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