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New Leash On Life

In life, sometimes a second chance is all we really need to create a new path forward and at the Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women near Black Mountain, the New Leash on Life is all about second chances. This innovative program, coordinated by case manager Kim Owenby, pairs inmates with shelter dogs looking for their second chance and together they are learning how to begin again.

About New Leash On Life

New Leash on Life was created to allow minimum and medium custody state prisons to work with local animal shelters, rescue groups, and other animal welfare organizations to help train and prepare dogs for adoption. Only two dogs at a time enter the program during each training cycle. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety website, 1,231 dogs have completed the New Leash on Life program since it began in 2008 and 1,136 have been adopted. Mike Gregory, Assistant Superintendent of Programs reports 32 were graduates from the Swannanoa facility.

Every 12 weeks, two dogs from Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue in Fletcher arrive at the facility as the newest members of the program. For the next 12 weeks they will work with two specially chosen inmates who will teach them basic obedience skills, walking on and off leash, and maybe even a trick or two. Together they will also work on overcoming any social or behavioral issues the dogs may have, like guarding or aggression, that may be barriers to being adopted. According to Kim Smith, President of Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue, “this program enables us to rescue dogs who may have some issues and get them the training they need so they can be adopted into a forever home”.

The dogs are each assigned to an inmate “trainer” as well as a back up trainer so there is no gap or down time in their 12-week training schedule. At night the pair sleep nearby in kennels in the women’s dormitory. “Being able to work with the dogs helps relieve some of the stress of prison life for the women.” says Gregory. “They are away from their families and this program helps them deal with that by focusing on the dogs.” For the women, the program also means they can be learning a skill that can benefit them when they are released. With the help of a professional trainer from the community, the inmate partners learn training techniques that can then be applied to the two apprenticeship programs available through the Department of Labor where inmates can receive certified training that will help them find jobs upon their release as a Certified Trainer or an Animal Care Provider.

“New Leash on Life is an excellent program and we are excited and pleased to be working with Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue. We look forward to a long relationship with the organization.”

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