Mississippi Juvenile Center and Animal Shelter Program Teaches Responsibility to Inmates and Helps Pooches Adapt to People and Find Good Homes

Dog at animal shelter

Dog at animal shelter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dogs and youngsters at Rankin County, Mississippi’s Juvenile Justice Center leave the facility readier for the world. They get rehabilitated together via the Rankin County Sheriff Department’s Paws for a Cause, a partnership between the county’s animal shelter and juvenile justice center. Since it began about a year ago, Sergeant Ken Sullivan said pet lovers have adopted 22 dogs from the program.

Sullivan said their mission is simple:

It’s about helping the children as much as the dogs. We want to find the dogs a good home and help the children, too, teaching them responsibility and compassion.

Paws for a Cause first chooses dogs from the animal shelter in Brandon that they think will be best for the program. The decision isn’t based on size or breed, but on behavior. He said they wouldn’t expose the juveniles to an overly aggressive dog.

“We have brought some out here that were terrified of people, but once they come out here and are around the children for a couple of weeks they were fine,” Sullivan said.

The dogs are next taken to the veterinarian to get vaccinated, spayed or neutered. After all of their health records are updated, they go the juvenile justice center in Pelahatchie, here they are introduced to their new caretakers.

Michelle Rhodes, the juvenile administrator at the center said because the kids enjoy working with the dogs so much, they use the program as an incentive for good behavior:

We try to help youngsters be successful when they leave here, and this has worked really well. We have kids who come in that are very mad or non- compliant. One kid came in and he was fussin’ and cussin’ officers out. We had a little dog in the detention area and the dog just kind of put himself up in the cell. The boy saw him and immediately his whole attitude changed. A dog doesn’t care what the child has done; he doesn’t judge. It’s been very therapeutic for a lot of our kids here.

Whenever the dogs aren’t roaming around outside, they stay in the center’s common area. The youngsters are responsible for feeding, cleaning and making sure the dogs’ water bowls are clean and filled. This program is completely self-funded, since everything was either donated or given at cost. Local businesses donate food, the cages and kennels, Brandon High School’s shop class constructed a metal cover to shade the kennels from rain and sun, and many community members have donated time and supplies.

The adoption process is simple. Potential owners can go to the Rankin County Juvenile Justice Center, meet the dogs, fill out an adoption form, pay the adoption fee and leave with a new pal. The fee is based on the cost of the veterinary services the dog receives; everything is non-profit.

“The kids get attached to the pets, but they understand that this is good for the pets to find a new home,” Sullivan said.

While dog personality is important, according to Puppy Toob, [PLEASE LINK TO: http://puppytoob.com/dog-breeds/top-ten-dogs-for-children/9/] the  best dog breeds (not aggressive) for youngsters are: beagle, bull terrier, collie, Newfoundland, Vizsla, Irish setter, poodle, Labrador retriever and Golden retriever.

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