Inmates Train Abandoned Dogs For Families
An Animal Rights Article from

November 2009

If this program did not exist, these dogs would be put down.

Last year, almost 25,000 animals were put down at the four Las Vegas Valley shelters. But some dogs are getting a second chance thanks to an unlikely source -- inmates.

The program is a joint venture between the Nevada Department of Corrections and the Heaven Can Wait Animal Society, who pair up dogs that need help with prisoners looking to do something worthwhile.

The result has been startling for the dogs, the inmates and Valley crime, reported Las Vegas news station KVVU.

Behind the chain link fence and barbed wire of the Jean Conservation Camp lies a new lease on life. But it's not only the inmates receiving rehabilitation.

Abandoned and abused dogs are being retrained and prepared for society -- and their trainers are women with the same goal.

The Pups on Parole program places dogs in the custody of women in custody, who train the dogs for family life.

Once they're ready, the dogs are put up for adoption and placed with families throughout the Valley.

"If this program did not exist, these dogs would be put down," said Lori Kearse, who helps run the program.

Kearse said inmates who take part are less likely to return to crime.

"We've been able to track them, and we're finding that they're not recommitting crimes. They're not violating parole," Kearse said. Heather Hanley, serving time for armed robbery, said training dogs like 4-month-old Rottweiler Chief is giving her a chance for retribution.

"If I can produce a pet that is not just a great dog but a dog that's going to be given to a family, that's going to strengthen their family bond and be a welcome edition to their family, then maybe I've done something to give back for all the mistakes I've made," Hanley said.

The dogs are solely the responsibility of the inmates. They feed them, train them and even sleep with them in living quarters.

"We've spent a lifetime of running through our problems, issues and not facing them. So today I can say myself and the other girls face our issues. We've learned to communicate and be responsible for our actions," Hanley said.

Wendy Bardwell has trained more than 25 dogs in her time incarcerated for burglary.

"I've grown tremendously. I've learned responsibility, acceptance and love," Bardwell said.

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