County jail to implement Paws Behind Bars program

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Inmates at the Madison County Detention Center will now have a chance to spend their time training animals from the Madison County Animal Shelter.

The Madison County Detention Center is implementing a new program which they hope will help two groups looking for a new start in Madison County.

In a statement on Facebook, the detention center announced they have begun the steps to initiate the Paws Behind Bars (PBB) program in partnership with the Madison County Animal Shelter.

According to the jail, the program will benefit both rescue animals and county inmates.

The jail officially welcomed their first rescue, Roman, this week.

"We are now bringing dogs to the jail to be handled and trained by inmates to make them more adoptable, therefore making more space available at the shelter," said Jailer Steve Tussey. "The residual effect at the jail has been the rewarding psychological calming effect of an animal companion. Much credit for the success of this program must go to Judge Taylor, Deputy Reinersman and Animal Shelter Director Katie Tibbs."

According to the Kentucky Department of Corrections Website, the PBB program began in 2009 at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (LLCC) in Oldham County, Kentucky.

At the end of 2018, approximately 840 dogs had been rescued and adopted to forever homes as a result of the program, the DOC states. In 2018 alone, homes were found for 70 dogs. There are currently 12 dogs in the program.

Since 2014, LLCC has partnered with the non-profit organization Adopt Me! Bluegrass Pet Rescue. The organization is responsible for choosing the dogs as well as handling their adoption.

The Facebook announcement by the jail stated they hope the animals will give the inmates a sense of unconditional love and support.

"Our goal is to save or change lives by providing vocational and emotional skills, hope and opportunity. Both inmates and rescues will use the skills gained through this program to increase quality in their lives and move onward-towards home. We are thrilled to have this program come to life inside our detention center. We believe rescued dogs will rescue people," the statement read.

According to the Human Bond Animal Research Institute, a broad range of investigations have found that human-animal interactions can reduce anxiety and depression and help protect against a variety of other negative feelings and emotions. Positive human-animal interactions appear to be related to changes in physiological variables in both humans and animals, such as reduced heart rate and blood pressure. Research has demonstrated an association between pet ownership and enhanced social support, emotional well-being and general well-being. Pet ownership has also been found to play a role in helping people manage long-term mental health conditions.

In addition to dogs coming to the jail for support and training, inmates are being taken to the animal shelter to help with routine cleaning, maintenance and animal care.

Tussey told The Register a designated deputy is assigned to transport and supervise inmates who will work at the shelter. He added this partnership came to fruition with Judge Reagan Taylor wanting to help the shelter with labor, as they are having difficulty filling staff vacancies.

"The inmate labor program has been extremely beneficial to both our Madison County Animal Shelter and to the inmates at the Madison County Detention Center. Even though its not an official training program, it is teaching our inmates skills that they can use to re-enter the workforce and allows them to learn positive decision-making skills. When we first started to look at the partnership between Animal Services and MCDC, we looked at supplanting some of the work force with inmate labor, not only in helping repair the facilities and clean up the kennels and things like that, (but) we knew we could use them to walk the dogs and provide additional socialization and that would be great for both parties," said Judge-Executive Reagan Taylor.

Participants in the program consists of one full-time inmate crew made up of non-violent offenders who have demonstrated good behavior in compliance with state work release. With their work at the shelter, Tussey said inmates are earning credits through the Department of Corrections, as well as learning life skills that will benefit them on their post jail endeavors. The inmates are not paid, and are under supervision at all times.

In a press release from the county regarding the program's announcement, administrators said they believe the work will bring out the best in inmates, and make the dogs more adoptable through training. However, there is still some risk with inmates in a work program outside of the jail.

"While there are always risks when inmates leave the detention center for a work program, the rewards definitely outweigh those risks. Inmates who are part of a work program are non-violent and low-risk to the community. They have made a poor decision at some point in their lives and this program helps them to make better decisions, while putting them in a position to gain skills, improve their situation and hopefully re-enter the workforce in a positive way at the end of their sentence," the release stated.

The Madison County Animal Shelter is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with viewing hours from 11 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The shelter is located at 1386 Richmond Road in Berea.

To view adoptable pets visit madisoncountyky.us/index.php/adoptable-pets, or view the Register's Pet Adoption Page on Nov. 3 and Nov. 6.

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