Offenders from the South Central Correctional Center at Licking with their dogs.

The Animal Shelter of Texas County and the South Central Correctional Center are teaming under a program that will allow offenders to care and train animals.

The Missouri Department of Corrections announced the program – “Puppies for Parole” — this week after a meeting earlier this month between the local group and officials of the South Central Correctional Center at Licking. Selected offenders have the opportunity to become trainers to rescue dogs in the program.

Offenders work with the dogs, teaching them basic obedience skills and properly socializing the animals, making them more adoptable. Once the dogs have successfully completed the program, they are sent back to the East Highway 17 shelter to be placed for adoption.

Eight offender handlers and two alternatives are enrolled in the program. Two more are expected to be approved by the end of the week. Once they are okayed, another dog will be added. Jacqueline Lapine, communication director for the department, said 72 males reside in the wing where the dogs and handlers reside.

“The dogs have a remarkable impact on Missouri Department of Corrections offenders, improving offender behavior and giving offenders incentive to maintain excellent conduct records,” said George Lombardi, director. “Offenders not directly involved in the program are showing responsibility and selflessness by donating to support our efforts. Staff morale is also enhanced by the presence of the dogs.”

The program has successfully been rolled out at other institutions in the state. Puppies for Parole uses no general revenue and operates solely on private donations and donations from offender organizations. Previously, the local animal shelter had received funds donated by prisoners.

To learn more, visit http://doc.mo.gov/division/dai/puppies.php. Animals trained are pictured on the site.

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