Program allows inmates, shelter dogs to train each other - WSMV Channel 4

Program allows inmates, shelter dogs to train each other

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Repeat offenders can be a huge burden on taxpayers as they go in and out of prison while committing more crimes along the way.

The hope has always been that prison programs and time in jail would change hearts, and one Nashville program is a surprise success story.

Dogs from the Nashville Humane Association deemed unfit for adoption get one last chance in, of all places, a CCA prison in Nashville.

Prison Paws makes the unusual match of inmate and dog - man and animal both behind bars locked away from society and written off - and the results are astounding.

"It's like, 'Man, we trained them to do this.' I can say I did this. It's pretty awesome," said Lonnie Dillon, with the Prison Paws program.

The dogs are given daily training for six months, so talk about a dog ready for a great home.

"It helps me as much as it helps them," Dillon said.

Eventually, the dogs get adopted, and the inmates learn valuable life skills. Consider that 300 men have gone through the program, but only six have re-offended.

"Just being a dog handler, not only are they learning work ethics, but they are also learning how to be responsible," said program Director Panthea 'Mama Dog' Aylward.

And while some people in the public might not want to do so, these dogs love these guys, forgive these guys and that can restore hope.

"When the guys start working with them they feel loved, and that love is unconditional. The dog doesn't care what they've done. They don't care what kind of crime you committed. They are going to love you anyway," Aylward said. "That puppy or that dog actually is a cushion that helps them to forget how mad they are, so they can actually think things through."

The men who work with the dogs beam with pride at their success. They love the dogs, and they love that they've helped save them.

Now, hopefully, they can go save themselves.

If you are interested in adopting a Prison Paws dog, contact the Nashville Humane Association or visit

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