Cook County Jail detainees will train dogs from Chicago’s animal shelter as part of a new program aimed at preparing for adoption larger dogs that often struggle to find permanent homes.
The initiative, called Tails of Redemption, also seeks to provide detainees with “valuable skills and practical work experience” that can be applied to future jobs, according to a city press release announcing the program earlier this week.
The eight-week initiative will pair selected individuals with an initial group of five medium- to large-sized mixed breed mutts that have been living at the city shelter. These types of dogs are typically more difficult to place in new homes, especially if they have not received manners training, according to Chicago Animal Care and Control.
“This program will allow CACC to follow the dogs on their journey and show their progress, so by the time they are ready to graduate, there should be a list of people waiting to meet them,” said CACC Acting Director Kelley Gandurski in a statement. “We know the inmates who are lucky enough to participate will benefit greatly from the unconditional love and the skills they acquire.”
After arriving at the jail this week, each dog was allowed to choose his or her own handler, said Jenny Schlueter, who assists Gaundurski at CACC. Dogs and their handlers spend the entire day together in intensive training sessions, and dogs sleep with detainees in their cells, which are outfitted with a crate and supplies.
To assist detainees in the program, CACC has set up a training library at the jail with books and videos about dogs. The sheriff office’s canine unit will also provide training and support.
Detainees selected for the program are “thoroughly vetted,” and those charged with rape, murder or any crime involving animals are ineligible, according to the city.
“This program will empower detainees to help change the future for these dogs, and hopefully in turn, they realize that they have the power to change their own future as well,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart in a statement.
The initial class of dogs was chosen following behavior assessments conducted by staff from Safe Humane Chicago, a nonprofit animal advocacy group. The group includes three females – Rochelle, 1; Bitsy, 1; and Cookie, 3 – and two males – Gilmore, 2; and Dutch, 3.
CACC is asking the public for help in collecting supplies for the program, including leashes, collars, stainless steel bowls, dog food, treats, crates and other items. Donations are welcome, and CACC’s wish list is available via Amazon.