Paws in Prison program provides new opportunities for inmates and dogs

Local News

NEWPORT, Ark. – The Arkansas Department of Corrections is expanding its Paws in Prison program for the first time since it started ten years ago.

The McPherson Unit in Newport is the seventh facility to host the program.

Out of the cages and into the hands of their new trainers, dogs are sniffing their way around the McPherson unit. Dashae Anthony and Jessica Smallwood are two inmates who got to meet their new companion.

“We’re pretty much alike and we come to be reformed and rehabilitated just as them,” Anthony said.

Eight dogs from the Humane Society of Independence County were brought in. Many of the dogs have suffered trauma and need to learn not only to sit and stay, but how to be comfortable around people and other dogs before they can be adopted.

“It’s their last chance,” Anthony said.

Professional trainer Tracy Owen said that’s where the inmates come in. They will spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with their pups.

“We’ve got some really timid dogs. It’s about building their confidence,” Owen said.

Anthony and Smallwood’s pup Sunshine is one of those timid dogs. Once they brought her out of her kennel and worked with her a little she started warming up.

As they continue working with her to get her ready for adoption, it’s also helping them learn skills for when their time in prison is up and giving them a friendly face to get them to the end.

“It helps you do your time. You have someone you can talk to, somebody you can trust, somebody you can love on,” Owen said.

The Paws in Prison program has trained and adopted more than 1,700 dogs into permanent homes.

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