According to Bethany Jordan, owner of The DogSmith of the Florida Panhandle, “Our goal with the FEATS program is to teach inmates how to train dogs giving them valuable technical and interpersonal skills and training shelter dogs so that they may be more adoptable. The inmates learn some great skills and getting more dogs adopted helps ease the pressure on local shelters that provide the dogs.”
While in the eight week program, the dogs will become crate trained, house-trained and socialized with people and other dogs, and they will learn basic manners and obedience including ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘come’ and walk loosely on a leash. David Corbin, Washington County Commissioner says, “We are very excited about the canine program. We think it will enhance skills for inmates and help save these animals from possible euthanasia. We look forward to having this program grow by leaps and bounds.” Each dog will be will adopted after completing the program and a great benefit for the adopting family, in addition to the training, is that every dog will be spayed/neutered, current with their vaccinations and micro-chipped.
Participation in the FEATS program is considered a privilege and only model inmates are accepted. This has proven to be a great incentive in prison communities for inmates to work hard to become eligible and stay in the program.
Through these programs inmates have the opportunity to learn skills and responsibilities that can benefit their life. Interacting with animals has been shown to have therapeutic value in a wide variety of settings including hospitals and schools and can help reduce feelings of isolation. Connecting with a dog can also help promote a healthy mental state, ease boredom and restlessness and give purpose to every day routine.
Some inmates feel they are giving back to their community by helping stray dogs become more adoptable and find a good home. Since the dogs live with the inmates they have plenty of time to work with and care for them.
The facilities in general can also benefit from dog training programs and many have reported a decrease in overall behavioral problems and improved public relations.