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Humane Society’s prison program helps trains dogs and prepare for adoption in Valdosta

Humane Society's Hamilton Hounds- New Leash On Life program.
Humane Society's Hamilton Hounds- New Leash On Life program.(Humane Society of Valdosta/ Lowndes County)
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 9:01 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Saving dogs and finding loving homes for them, that’s the mission for the Humane Society of Valdosta, Lowndes County.

They partner with Hamilton Correction Facility in Jennings, Florida to train rescued dogs, preparing them for successful adoptions.

The program is called “Hamilton Hounds, New Leash On Life”.

Humane Society's Hamilton Hounds- New Leash On Life program.
Humane Society's Hamilton Hounds- New Leash On Life program.(Humane Society of Valdosta/ Lowndes County)

Lead dog handler with the Humane Society, Tori Grindle says this partnership makes an impact in the life of the inmates and the dogs.

“I’m getting chills now. I don’t even have words to be able to describe that. The first day I think we were almost breaking down seeing the excitement out of the guys, how much they were looking forward to it, in love with the dogs,” said Grindle.

The humane society gets the dogs from Lowndes County Animal Shelter, then they pair them with two inmates and stay partnered for 10 weeks.

Humane Society's Hamilton Hounds- New Leash On Life program.
Humane Society's Hamilton Hounds- New Leash On Life program.(Humane Society of Valdosta/ Lowndes County)

“It’s really focused on giving the dogs the best chance, helping Lowndes County Animal Shelter with euthanasia rates, and helping them to be able to out as many animals as possible and the handlers also get the benefit of working with the dog,” said Grindle.

Those benefits include life-long animal advocacy, education, and experiences.

It also helps provide emotional and mental health benefits for the inmates.

“One of the inmate handlers for one of the dogs was telling me just how everything felt different. He felt like a human being for the first time in a long time and that’s huge. This place is heartbreaking and for them to have this to wake up to every day,” said Grindle.

The lead dog trainer of the program with over 30 years of experience, Katie Rooney, had previously started a successful program like this in another county in Florida.

Now, they just needed to recreate what has already been done.

“It is so rewarding. That’s why we do it as volunteers, the reward is more than we can never get any other way,” said Rooney.

The program currently has five dogs and 10 inmate handlers.

“So many of the dogs have probably never ever been loved and treated well so they are all of a sudden in this facility living there 24/7 with the inmates,” said Rooney.

Now they’re getting T-L-C...tender, love, and care.

“That’s the win, win, win, that’s the third win of the deal,” said Rooney.

A benefit to all, even the families adopting.

They’ll get a healthy dog, fully trained, ready for a home.

The dogs will be ready for adoption after their 10 weeks.

Then a new group of dogs will come in to start their training.

This will help prevent depressing effects for the inmates.

On graduation day, families will visit the prison, meet the handlers and learn everything the dog has been taught.

Grindle and Rooney hope the program continues to expand and be able to save more dogs.

If you’re interested in adopting one of the dogs in the program, a pre-adoption event will be happening soon.

You can learn more about the program and meet the dogs. It’ll be announced on the Humane Society’s Facebook Page.

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