Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

August 19, 2007

Paws in Prison holds first graduation

Inmates shared their feelings about the Paws in Prison program and showed off the skills of dogs they trained at a graduation ceremony Wednesday at the Sanders Estes Unit in Venus.

The eight week Paws in Prison program ended with inmates thanking Warden David McComis and other prison employees for allowing them to train the dogs.

“This has given me a whole different outlook on life,” said Mario Perez, an inmate who trained a dog named Midnight. “I am planning to stay in the program for one more round.”

Deputy Warden Michael Ringer said the Sanders Estes Unit plans to build the program and bring in more dogs over the next few months.

“This has had a positive impact on our facility,” he said.

The Sanders Estes Unit is the third GEO-run facility to implement Paws in Prison.

Pulling in support

Wally Swanson, founder of the Camp Wolfgang dog rescue, donates dogs to the program, and Maximum K9 trainer Gayle Justice teaches inmates to train the dogs.

“There have been less disciplinary issues in the prison since the program began,” Swanson said. “Over the decades I have rarely had an involvement that is win-win like this is.”

Justice said inmates who handle the dogs have a deep concern for them.

“They really love the dogs,” she said.

Michael Hollie, one of two inmates who trained a blue-eyed dog named Sky, fell so deeply in love with his dog that he is adopting her. He said he will be released from prison in 23 days and is thankful he is able to adopt Sky.

“This has been an experience that I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life,” he said. “It has been so rewarding to see dogs that have been abused or abandoned go home to loving families.”

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