COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Aimee, Maggie, Dexter, and Chance are untamed and unruly kids, worthy of good homes with loving families.
All they need is lots of attention, care and constant practicing on how to behave well in polite company.
And that’s what they are getting at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
The four puppies, three golden retrievers and a boxer, are the first participants in CCSO’s Second Chance Cell Dog Program, which places homeless shelter dogs to be obedience trained by carefully selected inmates who have already been sentenced by the courts.
CCSO is partnering with the Humane Society of Naples and its affiliate Southwest Florida Professional Dog Trainers Alliance to introduce the cell dog program to Collier County. The program is part of a broader effort by CCSO to teach inmates life skills in conjunction with our community partners from across Collier County.
Upon graduation, the dogs will be highly adoptable and possess obedience skills such as how to heel, sit, recall and stay. They will also be house trained, leash trained and responsive to voice commands and some hand signals.
The goal of the program is to make the dogs disciplined, loving and faithful family pets and increase their chances of going to a forever home. At the same time it teaches inmates valuable life lessons and job skills in the areas of dog training, dog grooming and veterinary assistant skills that they will be able to use after they complete their sentences.
Sheriff Kevin J. Rambosk said he is excited to launch the program at the Collier County jail. He thanked the Humane Society of Naples and Southwest Florida Professional Dog Trainers Alliance for partnering with CCSO in the program.
“We hope this program will not only provide a second chance for these shelter dogs, but will also allow the inmates to experience a feeling of giving back something positive to the community and gain a sense of responsibility and satisfaction by teaching and taking care of the animals,” Sheriff Rambosk said.
Since Oct. 24, volunteers with the Southwest Florida Professional Dog Trainers Alliance have been teaching eight inmates how to obedience train the dogs during an intensive eight- to 16-week course, depending on the trainability of each dog. Each dog has one primary inmate trainer and one secondary inmate trainer.
Inmates selected for the program are carefully screened. Inmates who have been sentenced to one year or less on nonviolent offenses are eligible.
“We have been researching programs that we could offer the sentenced female inmates,’’ said Jail Captain Beth Richards. “The cell dog program is one of the few programs that potentially benefit the community, the jail and the inmates.’’
Captain Richards added the puppies have had a therapeutic effect at the jail, lifting the spirits of both the deputies and inmates.
The program is being carried out at no additional cost to taxpayers.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is providing the inmate “labor” to train the dogs. Each dog is living 24/7 with two inmates in a housing cell. The dogs are housed in approved kennel crates.
The Humane Society of Naples has agreed to furnish specially selected dogs to the program, as well as the necessary crates, food, supplies and veterinary services. All of the animals are spayed or neutered, fully vaccinated and tested for heartworms. Upon completion of their training, the dogs will be returned to the Humane Society of Naples to be placed into their forever home with a deserving owner. The dogs will be available for adoption by the general public. The adoption process will be handled through the Humane Society.
The Southwest Florida Professional Dog Trainers Alliance has volunteered its services to instruct the inmates in obedience training. Dogs completing the training will receive a certificate of accomplishment. Dogs showing exceptional aptitude will be tested for The American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Program and will receive that award after successful testing.
To learn more about the adoption process, contact the Humane Society of Naples at 239.775.1660.