Homeless dogs, inmates alike get a second chance - WNCN: News, Weather

Homeless dogs, inmates alike get a second chance

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MAURY, N.C. - Homeless dogs in Lenoir County are given a second chance, all thanks to several North Carolina inmates in Greene County.

It’s part of a statewide program where inmates train dogs from local shelters to make them more adoptable. The "New Leash on Life" program has been at Eastern Correctional Institution for nearly a decade.

For the dogs there, it doesn't matter what the inmates did to get here. They’re not seen as criminals or felons, murderers or burglars. They're viewed as a companion, a new sense of hope.

"She gets another chance, you know,” said inmate, Alan Lucas. “That's the thing about this program. Every dog that comes through here, they don't get put to sleep."
Instead, the dogs are socialized, housebroken and taught lights like basic obedience and agility.

Every week, volunteers from New Levels Dog Training come to help inmates train their new best friends. Then, after 10 weeks, the dogs are put back up for adoption and in high demand.

"They're getting a dog that we know has good health, is heartworm negative, is current on all its vaccinations, its spayed or neutered and has 10 weeks of professional dog training,” said trainer, Linda Sewall.
From about 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., these dogs are with the inmate, turned trainer. The dogs aren’t the only ones getting something out of it.

"You got guys that have been here for years and haven't had a chance to even pet a dog in a lot of years. It's really calming,” said Lucas.

"It helps me succeed,” said inmate, Donald Abercrombie. “When the dog succeeds, I succeed. It's kind of changed my whole outlook."
While some of the men are serving life sentences, others who are out in a couple years may have a future in dog training and animal care.

"When I started learning how to train them, I saw it as a skill I could take back out into the street,” said inmate Paul Faulkner. “Make a better life for myself and help dogs."
Through New Leash on Life many inmates, like Faulkner, complete enough work hours to get a Journeyman Certification through the N.C. Department of Commerce. Eastern Correctional programs supervisor, Dalva Fleming, says it gives inmates a second chance too.

"These dogs come in with a life sentence because when they're in the shelter they got a life sentence. They're going to die if someone doesn't adopt them,” said Fleming. “When they come here, they get that new leash on life. And these guys get a new leash on life too. It helps them understand that once they get out they can keep on producing in the community."
Fleming says there is a wait list for the program and while each inmate’s sentencing differs, he will not allow anyone with sex crimes or animal cruelty crimes in the program.

"Out of 18 years, I've been in all kind of programs,” said Abercrombie. “You're in prison, a lot of time you get lost in the cracks. This right here helps you feel useful and plus you're doing service to society."
Inmate Price has been with the program for 4 years and trained about 25 dogs. He says for the first time, in a long time, he has a future.

“Most of us, when we were out there, we didn't make the best of choices. I don't know about the other guys, but I feel better knowing I'm sending a pet back."

Statewide, 18 prisons have the New Leash on Life program.  Along with Eastern Correctional in Greene County, prisons in Craven, Pender and Nash counties also participate.

In the past 10 years, nearly 2,100 dogs have been rescued and trained, and just about as many inmates are the reason why.

These four dogs will graduate the training program on Sept. 10, yet they are currently adoptable.

Click their names below for their profiles.
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