Pups in prison program gives inmates a second chance

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CLARINDA, Iowa (WHO) -- An Iowa prison is teaming up with the Animal Rescue League.

Inmates at the Clarinda Correctional Facility are training rescue dogs to be companion animals for veterans.

"We choose some little rougher dogs who have no manners or very little manners, that`s jumpy, mouthy or maybe they just need to refine some of their skills," said Cassandra Johnson from the Animal Rescue League.

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Iowa prison inmates train rescue puppies to help veterans
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Iowa prison inmates train rescue puppies to help veterans
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Some may see them as hardened criminals, but the men chosen for the program have a soft spot for dogs.

"This is going to be a life changer you know what I mean? A time changer. You know, my time is going to go by faster. I got four more years left on my mandatory," said Walk.

Nearly all of his time in the foreseeable future will be spent with Mollie, a snorty Boxer Bulldog mix.

After the handler and dog matches get a chance to sniff and size each other up, it's time for them to settle into their new digs and for the training and bonding to begin.

"They can't have family members in here so a dog is the closest thing to it," said Correctional Officer Rick Pace.

Almost two months later, the professional trainers return to put the prison pups to the test.

Before they get their doggie diplomas, the dogs have to show they can sit, stay and come. They must also demonstrate "leave it" skills, leash walking and waiting at the door.

Mollie, the top dog in the class, even has a few tricks to show off.

"I`m pretty attached to her. She`s attached to me," said Walk.

The same can't be said about one of her pup peers.

"Terrible two's every day," said Tommy Seehan.

He says Champion, a Rottie Mastiff pup, is the "laziest dog" the inmates have ever seen. Still, Seehan says he's ready for another canine companion behind bars.

"It gives them a way of showing some care and affection. They get some back too because the dogs love and care for them too," said Pace.

Caring for those four paws comes with another perk, a purpose behind bars.

"We get a second chance," said Walk.

Mollie is staying at the Clarinda Correctional Facility. In addition to being the prison's unofficial mascot, she will also be used as a therapy dog. Unfortunately, Champ wasn't a good fit for the program.

The ARL is about to start its third class of dogs at the prison.

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