Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – Onondaga County hopes to solve two problems at once with a new program designed to put stray dogs in the care of prison inmates.
Organizers hope the program will benefit both prisoners and pets.
“They end up being euthanized because there's a lack of space. They don’t have basic obedience,” explained Stefanie Higgins with Cuse’ Pit Crew.
The plan is to get the dogs trained by inmates at Jamesville Prison who earn the privilege.
“We have an untapped workforce up at our correctional facility,” said Deputy Onondaga County Executive Ann Rooney.
The program puts inmates to work and organizers believe it will help prepare them for life after incarceration.
“They can learn vocational skills, social skills; it provides them with self-esteem and purpose as they reintegrate back into the community,” Higgins said.
Stray dogs come to the often full DeWitt Animal Hospital and the program is attempting to give the dogs individualized attention before finding permanent homes for them.
“So this animal will be known by the prisoner inside and out, know what their likes are, dislikes are, how well they know how to sit is actually going to be a benefit to the family,” Higgins explained.
The program has the potential to help everyone in the county by getting stray dogs off the streets and reducing the need for costly county-funded euthanasia.
“Dogs are part of our society, they really are. And having stray animals unattended to can be a burden,” Rooney said.
In other places across the country where similar programs have been tried, there's proof that the bonds created between inmate and pet can have long-lasting effects - even drastically reducing the criminal relapse rate or recidivism.
“There is that tie between how you treat an animal and how you’ll act when you’ve been released,” Rooney said.
There are plans to build kennels on the same property as the prison.
The program is part of the Onondaga County Capital Project, which still needs approval from the county legislature, once the budget is passed.