Dogs, inmates getting second chance with PAWS

Dogs in Kyle are getting another chance at adoption with some help from prison inmates.

Behind the barbed wire and 24 hour surveillance camera’s you’ll find 20 inmates. 

At first glance these prisoners seem intimidating but as you get to know them you’ll find out they’ve been training 10 dogs for the past eight weeks. 

“You know Graham’s a special character he’s one of a kind. They all have their own personality,” said Ron Warnke.

The inmates and the dogs are all a part of a partnership between the prison and an organization called PAWS Cell Dog Program. The program is connected to the PAWS Shelter of Central Texas. So far, the partnership has been a success for the dogs as well as the inmates. 

Warnke and his cellmate Dillon Duer have been working with their canine Graham for weeks. Warnke says the canines and criminals learn critical life lessons from one another. 

"It gave me a chance to think about empathy and empathy for other lives and not just my own first,” said Warnke.  

For Duer having a dog to take care of has helped him bring down walls he never thought could be brought down.  

“I’m a different man cause of it,” said Duer. “I’ve always known dogs love you unconditionally that’s part of the reason why I joined the program like I said that gap I had...I had to have that gap filled I was hurting. I was lost."

On Tuesday during a graduation ceremony, inmates got the chance to showcase what they’ve been teaching their four legged friends. 

Organizer with the program say the basic obedience skills will help the dogs be better prepared for adoption. 

However, these prisoners and their pets aren’t together forever. The goodbyes are bittersweet. 

“I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was,” said Duer. "I came in with the understanding that I wasn’t going to keep him but it was hard."

Thanks to these prisoners dogs who were once serving a sentence have now found forever homes.

Duer says the bond between dog and trainer will never be forgotten. 

“He saved me that’s all I can say he really saved my heart,” said Duer. 

The PAWS Shelter of Central Texas is scheduled to open a new facility in Dripping Springs at the end of June.

To donate to PAWS' Cell Dog Program visit their website or call the PAWS Shelter of Central Texas at (512) 268-1611 for inquiries about adoption.