A new program, launched in Suffolk County, New York, is all about second chances. A second chance for homeless shelter dogs who need a home, and inmates who need a fresh start.
The non-profit organization, Hounds Town Charities, recently launched the long-anticipated pilot program Handcuffs to Heeling at the Yaphank Correctional Facility. Six inmates have been paired with six dogs from the Brookhaven Animal Shelter for a six-week training program.
According to Michael Gould, President and Founder of Hounds Town Charities, the program is about much more than just training dogs. It’s about transformation and socialization – it’s about working to make the dogs, and the inmates who are training them, better.
Dogs participating in the program are provided with much needed socialization time, in addition to learning basic commands and good manners. The canine participants were selected by Gould with the help of shelter director Ashley Boyd – criteria for being selected included being friendly to both people and other dogs, as well as being in need of a home.
Gould hopes that the dogs selected for the training program will be able to avoid having to go back to the shelter – he said, “The goal is to get the dogs adopted soon after graduation date in mid-October.”
The Handcuffs to Heeling concept came to Gould years ago – after volunteering at various municipal shelters on Long Island, he realized that something was missing. He explained, “I used to go to the shelters on the weekends, and I thought to myself ‘there are humans in similar situations that I could be helping as well.’ ”
When the opportunity to initiate this program came along, Gould jumped on the chance. “I am very grateful to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department for the opportunity to take this progressive approach to rehabilitating both dogs and humans,” says Gould. “The Department values what we are doing, and that is essential to the program’s success.”
The majority of the dogs in the pilot program are pit bulls – Gould and his staff don’t look at breeds or labels, be it canine or otherwise. He stated, “Many people see pit bulls; I see dogs. Many people see inmates; I see humans.”
Find Hounds Town Charities on Facebook here.
Hounds Town USA website here.