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"New Leash on Life" program connects adoptable dogs with inmates

Lansing WILX-TV logo Lansing WILX-TV 2/22/2020 Ian Hawley/ Christiana Ford
a person standing in a room: The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter on a pilot program called “New Leash on Life." (Source WILX) © Provided by Lansing WILX-TV The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter on a pilot program called “New Leash on Life." (Source WILX)

MASON, MI (WILX) -- The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter (ICACS) on a pilot program called “New Leash on Life" pairing inmates with dogs from the shelter to interact and socialize.

From the look on 23-year-old Sam's face during her third visit with the dogs, the program is already having an impact.

"A lot of us have a lot going and miss our family, or miss our own dog, so it is just good for our mental health and everything," said Sam.

Roquefort and Avon are both strays who were brought into the ICACS.

Sam is now helping train and socialize them. ICACS Director Heidi Williams says the inmates have had a positive impact on the dogs already, interacting with them so staff can focus on other tasks.

"They spend a lot of their day in a cage and we try to interact and enrich their lives as much as we can, but we only have so much time to take care of business at hand, so when the idea came up for this program I jumped at it because it's an opportunity for us to get our dogs out of their environment, interacting with people in a positive way," said Williams.

The dogs are helping the inmates too.

"It can like be very depressing and sad in here," said Sam.

Through the dark lense of the jail walls and iron bars, the dogs bring sunshine and hope. Especially for Sam who has since decided to become a Vet Tech when she is released from jail.

Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth says the partnership is a perfect fit.

"There's no secret that back here their interactions with the public are limited at best, typically over video and for them to be able to sit down and play with an animal goes a long ways to their rehabilitation so that when they get out of here, hopefully, they never find themselves back here," said Wriggelsworth.

The program will be voluntary to participate in, and will typically be done inside a vacant space of the jail.

Right now only a small number of inmates participate in the program but Wriggelsworth says they have already gotten plenty of requests to join.

Acceptance is based on behavior.

Getting the dogs to be more social and friendly will increase the odds that they get adopted to a good home.

The "pawsitive" program is underway and so far is going purr-fectly woof-derful.

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