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August 9, 2012
The number of legs might’ve been the clue that this wasn’t your usual release from prison. On August 1st, four residents were let out of the Pamlico Correctional Institution, 16 legs among them. The four dogs emerging that day had just graduated from PCI’s first New Leash On Life program and were on their way to their new homes.Walking out of Pamlico Correctional Institution, Lyka, a graduate of the first New Leash on Life Program there.
The humans involved with the program – from prison officials to inmates to the Pamlico Animal Welfare Society to the new owners – are touting the benefits of New Leash on Life for both the dogs and for the inmates who spent 8 weeks training the canines so they could get homes on the outside.Lyka, a Pomeranian, went home from PCI with Katherine and Jonathan Weis of Oriental. Katherine teaches at the prison and offered to adopt the Pomeranian the first time she saw him. (The couple has two other small dogs of that same breed.) In all, four dogs went to new homes after the first 8-week session of New Leash on Life program at PCI
Just two months earlier, the dogs been living in animal shelters or foster care, and had an uncertain future. Some were puppies, others full grown. A Pomeranian, here, a yellow Lab there, a Catahoula among them, they had one thing in common: they were orphans and needed a home. In order to bump up their chances of that, though, they also needed some training. That’s where the New Leash On Life effort came in.The four primary trainers and their dogs at the graduation ceremony at PCI. Homes were found for all four of the canines.
The concept is this: to make the dogs more likely to be adopted, train them in the basic commands — Sit. Stay. Down. —- and to do that, train prisoners on how to train the dogs. Local dog trainer, Alecia Williams volunteered her time for that.
Just as the training makes the dogs more adoptable, the thinking goes, the skill at dog training is one that the inmates may be able to use when they too, walk out the prison’s doors. The program’s been done in 21 other NC prisons before this summer, when Pamlico Correctional Institution tried the program for the first time.Gary Goldman with Mia, Jeremy Steelmon with Allie, Jackie McConnell with Lyka and Bryan Carter with Jake, the dogs they trained in Pamlico Correctional Institution’s first round of New Leash on Life.
On August 1st,the prison held a graduation ceremony where the dogs, their inmate trainers, prison officials, inmate visitors and the families adopting the dogs gathered. At the end, the new owners stepped forward, one by one, to take over the leash – and dog – from the prisoners who trained the animal.Patience. The four graduating dogs hold their positions until given the command to come to their trainers.
Before the hand-over to their new owners, the dogs and trainers showed off what they’d learned. In the center of the room, the dogs sat and laid down, resisting the temptation of distractions, such as all the people in the room. Even as toy balls were rolled at and around them, even as one inmate bounced a basketball close by, and the inmates stepped over them, the dogs stayed.Bryan Carter with Jake, the dog he trained.