Chesterton Tribune


Popular Westville prison dog training program canceled

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WESTVILLE, Ind. (AP) — A highly praised program that enlisted inmates at the Westville Correctional Facility to train shelter dogs is being cut because of cost concerns.

More than 375 inmates have participated in the Prison Tails Program, training more than 500 shelter dogs and 200 that were privately owned. But prison officials say they will end the program Oct. 1.

Assistant Superintendent John Schrader said officials couldn’t justify the cost of the program, which requires a full-time staff member.

"I know that it has changed some of the men’s lives, but it just wasn’t a good use of taxpayers’ money,” Schrader told the LaPorte County Herald-Argus.

The loss of the program is hitting some trainers hard.

Steve Lackey said being involved in the program while behind bars made him more patient and responsible and led him to get certified as a pet care technician.

“The love of a dog gets a lot quicker response than a counselor,” said Lackey, who now works as a kennel manager for a central Indiana animal shelter. “I hate to see it go away. I just really hope something could be done.”

In 2008, Prison Tails was recognized by the federal Department of Labor as an educational provider. Since that time, participants who complete the necessary requirements have received certification from the DOL as a “Certified Animal Trainer.” They’ve also had their sentenced reduced by six months.

Cris Stevens, whose group Mixed Up Mutts began working with the Prison Tails program in 2004, said the program took shelter dogs with behavioral problems and had the inmates train them so they could be returned to the shelter and placed for adoption.

At its peak, the program had 32 dogs and 32 trainers. That had dropped to a dozen dogs and trainers.

“I think the program has proven to be a positive program for everyone involved,” Stevens said. “They are rounded dog trainers when they leave us. It has so many good aspects. Losing those things is a bad thing."


Posted 9/24/2012