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PAWS Program: Inmates train dogs from LC Animal Shelter

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It’s a program you might have seen happening in prisons across the country; an animal shelter partners with a correctional facility to allow inmates to train dogs that aren’t being adopted.

Well now, that’s happening right here in our community. The Lewis-Clark Animal Shelter was approached by the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino and this partnership has proved to be beneficial not only for the dogs.

Donna Duffau, Lewis-Clark Animal Shelter Director of Operations said, "I've always wanted to do this since I've been working at the shelter."

Donna Duffau, the Lewis-Clark Animal Shelter Director of Operations, had no hesitations when the prison contacted her about participating in the PAWS Program.

"I'd seen stories about this kind of program in other prisons, and when I started working here I'd wanted to do one here,” said Daffau.

PAWS stands for Paroling Animals With Skills, and it allows inmates to train, live with, and care for dogs that were abused, abandoned or surrendered.

A lot of the inmates behind these fences have a history, and a lot of those are similar to the histories and back stories of the dogs they'll be working with.

Take Summer, she was found abandoned in a foreclosed home in Lewiston.

Daffau said, "There was just feces all over the house, she was locked in the house, she was vicious. I mean so afraid."

Summer is one of the dogs chosen for the PAWS Program…and it has changed her life around.

Daffau said, "Just so grateful that she could come here and learn that people are nice and people don't treat you like that... and she got trained."

Lieutenant Earl Johnson has spent 24 years in law enforcement, including as a K-9 officer.

"I have a love for dogs,” said Lt. Johnson.

He knew he wanted to start a program here.

"I approached Warden Carlin with the idea of starting a dog program and she was gracious enough to let me start one,” said Lt. Johnson.

His goal for the program started with the idea of helping the dogs.

Lt. Johnson said, “We're trying to heal that dog from whatever environment it came from"

But turned into something much bigger.

"Being free, or being out in society is gone for a lot of them, so having a pet gives them a sense of what they used to have in their family atmosphere,” said Lt. Johnson.

Lieutenant Johnson has seen this change first-hand.

"He was basically a convict and a thug, and that's what he had been his whole life, and that's what he figured he was gonna be his whole life,” said Lt. Johnson. “He got into this program, and the dogs changed him."

He said that inmate was eventually paroled, and left this facility with the hopes of becoming a dog trainer.

Lieutenant Johnson says, PAWS allows the inmates an experience much of them need to turn a corner in life.

"This is their chance to give something back to society,” said Lt. Johnson. “It's their chance at doing something that's good versus what brought them here."

This is the first time the Lewis-Clark Animal Shelter has participated in the PAWS Program, and they say they are extremely pleased with how it turned out.

They are accepting donations to help fund the food and materials to continue this program. If you’d like to donate click on this link. http://www.lcshelter.org/about-us/paws/

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