Inmates and shelter dogs have a lot in common. They are both in temporary housing, fearful of the unfamiliar situation and what lies ahead. Thanks to a new partnership Travis County inmates and Austin Animal Center dogs are giving each other hope.
Sampson has been at the Austin Animal Center for six months.
"He was a stray. He was kind of like depressed and a little kind of broken down when he arrived, a little rough around the edges,” said AAC Behavior Specialist Dennis Weaver.
While behavior specialist Dennis Weaver and other volunteers worked with him, there was still room for improvement. The perfect opportunity came from the Travis County Correctional Complex.
"It's an absolute life-saving partnership,” said AAC Chief Animal Services Officer Tawny Hammond.
On Thursday the Austin Animal Center announced a new program that involves inmates training dogs. It began in September. In the first four week course, a dozen female inmates trained four dogs. In the new course a dozen male inmates will serve as trainers.
The inmates teach the dogs to be house-trained and understand basic commands like sit, lie down and how to walk on a leash. All skills will improve a dog's chances of being adopted.
The inmates also stand to benefit.
"They come out of it with a piece of paper but it's more, it's life skills and experiences they can carry with them on their next leg of their journey which we hope is a positive one full of opportunities,” said Hammond.
The sheriff's office and shelter will soon expand the program to include overnight stays. Dogs will remain with the inmates in their cells.
"When a pet is in a shelter, it's a very stressful artificial environment. They don't know why they're there,” said Hammond. "It means everything to these pets to get out of that artificial environment"
Sampson is a new dog.
"He's loose, he's soft, he's gentle, he has really soft eyes,” said Weaver.
He is ready for a family.
If you are interested in any of the dogs featured in the story, click on the link below and type in the number for the animal.