“Sometimes it just takes a little kindness from one hurting soul to another to change us forever” -Karen Kostyla

  

Who Are We: Canine CellMates began in June 2013 as a dedicated jail dog program in cooperation with the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, GA. Canine CellMates maintains a continuing partnership with the Fulton County Animal Services (FCAS), the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and the Fulton County Jail, allowing us the opportunity to save dogs from the shelter by vetting them, training them and ultimately transforming them into adoptable dogs, all while benefiting the inmates and the greater community.

Our Mission: Our mission is to provide a better life for both the inmates in the Fulton County Jail and rescued shelter dogs from FCAS. During an intensive 16 week course consisting of education, training and overall care for the dogs, we hope to positively change both the dogs and the inmates. During the 16 week program, an inmate is able to train two dogs, one after the other. At the end of the training course, our goal is for the dogs to pass the Canine Good Citizen test and graduate from our program into a wonderful, forever home. We also aim to provide viable job skills for the inmates and create a new overall lease on life for both the dogs and the inmates.

What We Do: All of the dogs selected for our program have undergone extensive temperament testing with our dedicated Behavior Assessment team. Upon arrival at their temporary home in the dormitory style setting within Fulton County Jail, each dog is assigned a primary inmate handler, and on occasion, a secondary handler. This not only allows for more inmates to benefit from the program, it also provides continuity for the dog, should one of the handlers leave the program.

Certified dog trainers and training assistants conduct the training sessions throughout the 16 week course, using positive training methods to teach the inmates how to train and care for the dogs. Outside of the work in the classroom, the inmates spend time during the day with their dog, bonding and reinforcing the skills learned in class. We also have a strong educational component to our program — we bring speakers in to talk about issues such as Breed Specific Legislation, Tethering - the dangers and the alternatives, resources like Ahimsa House, and other professionals both inside and outside of the animal rescue community. A common theme is One Person Can Make a Difference. We truly believe that, “When you know better, you do better.”

Why It Matters: In simple terms, this program changes lives – both canine and human, by offering them a second chance at life. Both groups have faced isolation and rejection by the outside world, but when they come together, they often give each other a new found sense of hope, as they become the rescuer for one another.

The benefits to the inmate handlers are many, including: learning responsibility by caring for a living being, accountability in working towards a goal, experiencing the joy of unconditional love, gaining confidence in working toward a positive outcome and skills that will allow them to become law abiding, productive members of society.

The incidence of violent outbursts in prison and jail facilities where jail dog programs operate has shown a dramatic decrease, sometimes as much as 50%. Recidivism rates have also shown drastic improvements. The Atlanta metro area has had one of the highest recidivism rates in the country, around 70% within the first two years after release. With programs like this in place, it is likely that the Atlanta metro area will begin to show a reduction in this recidivism rate.

At FCAS, 30 to 40 animals in need are added each day to the already overcrowded shelter population. Unfortunately, due to a lack of space, many healthy, adoptable dogs are euthanized. At Canine CellMates, we work in conjunction with FCAS to lower this alarming statistic by providing community outreach, education and forever homes for the Canine CellMate dogs.



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