Austin Dog Rescue on KXAN, Paws in Prison Program





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Published on Jan 18, 2008

A partnership in a Lockhart lockup is transforming lives, both human and canine.

This is the first time that Texas female inmates have had the chance to take part in the Paws in Prison program.

All the dogs were abandoned, abused, rescued and faced being euthanized, until local dog rescue groups teamed up with a local prison last month.

There are 12 new inmates at the Geo Group's Lockhart Prison. These rescued dogs have come a long way in a short time.

They're jumping through hoops, learning new steps, overcoming obstacles and starting to trust again, but these dogs are not the only ones gaining new skills.

"For me it's been a learning experience," says inmate Vicki Hamilton. "We come here with a feeling of worthlessness. These dogs give us a sense of purpose."

The inmates take care of the dogs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"They are learning about responsibilities, even when it is not convenient, like at 3 in the morning, and they have to take a potty break," says assistant warden Irene Hamlin.

Each dog has two handlers.

Roommates Brandi Townsend and Olga Ibarra are responsible for Lucy while Vicki Hamilton and Kyarah Higgs care for Ralph.

More than 100 inmates applied to take part in the program, and only 24 were chosen.

"I wanted Ralph so bad, and she came in two days later and brought Ralph to me, it was the best Christmas present I could ever have," Higgs says.

The warden says since the dogs moved in, there have been fewer problems in the dormitory.

The Lockhart facility plans to continue the program.

The first class of dogs will graduate in a couple weeks.

"Some were pretty sad, depressed, really not sure what happened in their lives; their life had been turned upside-down, and so this is giving them a second chance to find a good life this time," says Joyce Martin of Austin Dog Rescue.

Organizers have only found homes for two of the 12 dogs.

Lockhart Prison is holding an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, so the public can meet the dogs available for adoption. Learn more about the canines from Austin Dog Rescue.


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