Here’s the press release from the Community Resource Council of Craggy Correctional Center:
Graduation Day is special for dogs enrolled in the New Leash On Life program at Craggy Correctional Center.
Nobody wanted them. One dog, Cooper, was within hours of being euthanized. That is why Graduation Day, December 13th at 1:00 p.m. is so special for the dogs enrolled in the New Leash On Life program at Craggy Correctional Center. Four times a year, a graduation ceremony is held at the prison to honor both the dogs who have completed intensive training and socialization as well as their inmate trainers. At the ceremony, each dog has its own graduation song chosen by the trainers on the basis of their personality. For Cooper, that song was “Low Rider” by War, a perfect accompaniment for the bulldog mix.
The new owners are also given a journal recorded by the trainers of the dog’s time in the program. For Cooper’s new owner, Debbie Sprouse, this was particularly meaningful. “Cooper has blended so beautifully with our family,” she says. “Having a journal that follows Cooper from almost being euthanized to graduation from the New Leash On Life program is something I will always treasure. I appreciate all the work of the inmate trainers who have brought this special dog into our home.”
The dogs’ lives change for the better when they come to Craggy Correctional Center, a medium security prison housing 408 men. The dogs are part of the Department of Public Safety’s New Leash on Life program which operates in 20 prisons throughout the state. The program has a proven track record of success benefitting both dogs and trainers.
“You cannot underestimate the impact of the human/animal bond,” said Richard Elingburg, Craggy’s Assistant Superintendent of Programs. “The dogs are taught basic obedience skills in preparation for adoption and the inmate trainers are empowered through the responsibility of caring for and training the dogs. It’s a win-win program.”
In 2010, the members of Craggy’s Community Resource Council were given a challenge by prison officials: raise $6000 to build a kennel and we’ll start a New Leash on Life program at Craggy. The Council met that goal within a few months. With labor provided by an inmate construction crew, construction was completed, and the kennel opened on June 26, 2012. Animal Haven of Asheville is Craggy’s partner for New Leash on Life. They furnish the dogs for the program. Through Animal Haven, food, toys, free veterinary care, and a trainer, Jenny White, are provided. The dogs live at Craggy for 12 weeks with an inmate trainer and an alternate. At the end of 12 weeks, they graduate, most leaving with their new owners who also attend the ceremony.
The program at Craggy has an adoption rate of 100%. The dogs are leash and crate trained, neutered/spayed, have all shots, and are microchipped. The adoption fee is $80. Most of all, they come full of the love from the many hands who cared for them while in prison. Anyone in the public can adopt the dogs, and they have found homes both locally and out of state.
To learn more about adopting a New Leash On Life dog or how you can help support the program through a donation, contact Richard Elingburg at 828-645-5315.