(LOS ANGELES) — Dogs once destined for “death row” are getting a second chance at life in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail.
In the Custody Canine Program, 36 inmates take care of two dogs every five weeks. Each dog is rescued from a shelter, days before it is scheduled to be euthanized.
The inmates live with the canines 24 hours a day, bathing, feeding and training the dogs so they can find a new home.
Dog behaviorist Rick Belmonte helps the inmates teach the dogs to sit, stay, heel and much more. Belmonte said the special bond the men have formed with the dogs will help them integrate back into society without reoffending.
“They’re starting to walk taller. I’ve seen people who are shy, speaking louder,” Belmonte said. “They’re feeling a sense of empowerment. I think that confidence will help them get a job interview.”
And every dog that has come through the Custody Canine Program has been adopted.
At first, Sgt. Raymond Harley with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was surprised to see dogs roaming the halls of the jail. Now, he said he believes they help keep inmates from acting out while they are behind bars.
“The inmates are much more calm and relaxed,” Harley said.
The sheriff’s department is also now working on expanding the program to two additional jails.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Tom LoBianco, CNN
Jackie Wattles and Rene Marsh, CNN