They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But the Rock County Sheriff's Office and the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin hope to prove that phrase wrong with a new program centered on rehabilitating dogs and inmates.
"Just the opportunity to be able to train the dog. This whole program is providing me a very big opportunity to have a positive impact on not only the dog, but also a lot of people's lives," said Ryan Lambert, an inmate at the Rock County Jail.
Lambert has been in the county jail since January. During the next four weeks he will be training Duke, a dog provided by the humane society, on basic commands and behavior training to prepare him for adoption.
"It is to rehabilitate, it is to improve. As we always say at the humane society, it's not just to store a pet or a person. It's to honestly make them better every day they are a part of the program," Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin Executive Director Bret Frazier said.
The Canine Corrections Academy program is the first of its kind in Wisconsin. Although, there have been similar programs in jails around the country, Sheriff Bob Spoden said this is the first program to pair unadoptable dogs with inmates to prepare them for future adoptions.
"We also believe it will allow them a sense of accomplishment, that I've taken this pet and with the right training, now it is going to be adopted. Obviously, having a dog inside the dormitory area of our jail will reduce tension," Spoden said.
The dogs will be housed in the same dormitory as the inmates. During the night, the dogs will sleep in a crate. The sheriff's office hopes to house up to four dogs in the future, with the hope of each dog being adopted within eight weeks of training.
Spoden said the dogs are not bad animals, but like the inmates need a second chance
"The pets are basically good animals. They just have not been trained and they have not been disciplined. They don't have the ability to interact appropriately yet, they're not dangerous. They can be good dogs eventually," Spoden said.
As for Lambert, he said Duke will not be the only one learning new tricks
"Duke might teach me more tricks than I might teach him. It's a learning process for the both of us," Lambert said.
The sheriff's office said the program will not cost taxpayers any additional money. All food for the dogs will be donated by the humane society.