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Puppies for Parole: Prison program gives dogs, offenders second chance

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Puppies for Parole - it's a unique program helping offenders put their best foot forward and dogs put their best paw forward.

KTVO had the chance to see how the program works inside one Missouri correctional center.

"My whole life, I've screwed up. I thought if I could do something to help these animals, it would better myself in the process."

Those are the words of Jimmy Elliott, just one of the trainers who is thankful for what the program offers.

The Puppies for Parole Program is training dogs at the Moberly Correctional Center to help get them ready to be adopted into their forever homes.

The training, which is through the Missouri Department of Corrections, partners with animal shelters across the state.

Once the dogs have successfully completed the training, they will be adopted through their original shelter.

Doug Ducich, Puppies for Parole Case Manager at the Moberly Correctional Center says the program has two very different benefits.

"It gives dogs that may have not otherwise been adopted, it gives them the training and obedience to where they can be successfully adopted. But even more importantly, it gives the offenders something to work toward."

Offenders work with the pups to teach them basic obedience skills like responding to the commands of "sit" "stay" and "come."

Thanks to Puppies for Parole, over 4,000 dogs in total have graduated from the program and have been adopted.

In Moberly, the program has helped a few hundred dogs.

"We've been doing this for five years now," said Elliott. "We've graduated over 500 dogs. That's 500 dogs that have gone to homes that otherwise might have been put to sleep."

In addition to giving dogs a second chance at life, Puppies for Parole has also had positive impacts on the offenders who work hard to get the pups ready for adoption.

"Two of the biggest problems we have with the offenders are self-centerdness and low self-esteem," Ducich said. "This program has the ability to resolve both of those issues and deal with both of those problems."
"Instead of being out doing the normal prison activities that happen in the Department of Corrections, everyone is staying out of trouble, trying to change their life around and do something better for themselves, not just the dogs," added Elliott. "It's also about the offenders."

Statistics from the program show training the dogs has let the offenders repay some of the debts caused by their crimes.

"I've seen a lot of offenders come and go," Elliott said. "Just about every one of them that's come through this program, I've not seen come back to prison."

For offender Jimmy Brown, he says the knowledge he has received while participating in the program gives him options for what to do with his life once he is released from the correctional center.

He has only been participating as a trainer for a few months, but is already looking to the future.

"I've learned a lot. After I've been in the program a year, I'll be able to be certified. Everybody in the program is after they've been in the program a year."

And for offender Dennis Evans, training the dogs and getting them ready for adoption has given him something to look forward to everyday.

"Anybody that wants to come into the program can as long as they are willing to want to be able to stay in it, stay right up free and change their life. Having a dog around, I've raised them all of my life. I love animals and it's just a great and wonderful thing and opportunity to do."

Puppies for Parole training is certified through the American Kennel Club.

To learn more about the program or how to adopt a dog that's graduated or participating in the program, click here.


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