“All dogs go to heaven,” as the saying goes. But in Venus, lucky pups go to prison.
The fortunate few are sprung from kill shelters by Hewitt-based Happy Endings Dog Rescue.
The Sanders Estes Unit in Venus is home to 1,040 prisoners of varying degrees of lawlessness, and at times, as many as 20 dogs, including the unit’s mascot, a three-legged mutt named King Tut.
And like prisoners — many of whom say they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time — the dogs deserve a second chance, said Lt. Christine Chaplin who oversees the Paws of Hope dog training program at Sanders Estes.
Started in 2009 as a way to rehabilitate prisoners and make “unwanted” dogs — such as pit bulls, pit bull-mixes and Rottweilers — more adoptable, the program has helped save more than 120 dogs that would have otherwise been euthanized in kill shelters.
“Pit bulls and Rottweilers are two dogs that have a horrible name,” Chaplin said. “They are over-bred and tossed aside ... I like the fact that they bring those because you can show people that they are great family dogs, that it’s not the dogs [that are bad] It’s the people.”
By the time they arrive at Sanders Estes, the dogs have already been through a “doggy boot camp” at Camp Diggy Bones, a boarding facility and shelter in Lavon, which works in conjunction with Happy Endings to ensure the pups are ready for adoption. The adoption fee for any dog is $100. Each is trained with basic commands, spayed or neutered and up to date on vaccinations.
“Between training and all that stuff, they’re a several thousand dollar dog by the time they leave here,” Chaplin said.
Management and Training Corporation contracts the Sanders Estes facility through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Chaplin said the goal of MTC is to help offenders get back into society. Privilege programs like Paws of Hope benefit those serious about rehabilitation.