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Philadelphia Program Pairs Model Prisoners With Dogs In Need of Training

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia Prison System has welcomed some more arrivals.  But they’re happy to be there — and wagging their tails.

The program is called “New Leash on Life,” in which eight qualifying inmates in four cells at the Alternative and Special Detention Facility, on State Road, have been matched with four abandoned shelter dogs from the Pennsylvania SPCA.

The SPCA’s Nicole Larocco says the dogs — given names for celebrities who spent time behind bars (Johnny Cash, Elvis, Tyson, and Paris) — will live with the inmates for 11 weeks.

“The dogs are really great,” she says.  “Friendly, social — but not a lick of training.”

The aim of the program is to socialize the dogs to enhance their adoptability.  It includes weekly sessions with professional trainers, animal behaviorists, and veterinary technicians.
Larocco says they even have scholarships for paroled inmates for additional training and education in the field of animal care.

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prison dogs veney et al tawa Philadelphia Program Pairs Model Prisoners With Dogs In Need of Training

(Inmate Bradley Veney, center, and his cellmate meet rescue dog "Elvis," whom they will retrain. Credit: Steve Tawa)


It didn’t take long for inmate Bradley Veney to get acquainted with Elvis, a two-year-old blue pit bull with a great big face and a beautiful temperament.

“He likes to be rolled over on his back and scratched,” said Veney, who adds that he is glad to be part of a program that will help more dogs avoid the fate of being put down.

“A couple of the dogs, they’re cute and everything, but I got the pick of the litter,” says another inmate, Robert Oliver, who was matched up with a nine-month-old purebred black Labrador (“Johnny Cash”).  “I’ll have him sitting down and laying down in a week.   I always wanted to be a veterinarian, but that’ll take a while.”

On the New Leash On Life web site is a quote from an unknown author: “My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am.”

Reported by Steve Tawa, KYW Newsradio 1060

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  • Jim

    What a great program. It’s easy to be cynical, but it’s little things like this that nobody thinks about that might help an inmate to build a little bit of empathy that will help him straighten up and fly right when he is released back into society. It’s a shot at a low cost high return fix. Good for the dogs too who really don’t care what someone has done.

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