Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Inmates train homeless dogs

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Friday, August 18, 2006

PALMER-Twelve dogs will walk to the Pomp and Circumstance march as part of the second graduating class in the successful SPOT program. Soon after, nine dogs will leave to a new home, but three of the newly trained dogs are without homes as yet.

The graduation takes place next Wed., Aug. 9, at 3 pm at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River. The program is a partnership between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the state Department of Corrections.

SPOT, or Shelter Pet Obedience Training, is a pilot program that puts inmates and unwanted dogs together. The inmates teach the dogs skills that are valuable in the real world, among them: how to be house broken, kennel-trained, and a few tricks as well. The program is practiced nationwide, but is the first of its kind in Alaska.

All five dogs in the first graduating class found a home. The program helps the MAT-SU reduce the number of animals in its crowded shelter. Last year, 517 adult dogs and 32 puppies were euthanized.

The program helps Corrections because it gives inmates a boost in morale. During the first graduation in June, Superintendent of the prison, Dean Marshall, was met with laughter when he told the inmate crowd, "It's just tremendous to have these animals here." On cue, a floppy-eared German Shepherd mix rolled on her back, pushing a hairy belly into view.

The MAT-SU's Chief Animal Care Officer Dave Allison told the crowd that it's really easy to adopt out puppies and kittens, but very, very hard to find a home for an adult animal. The new owners have included Corrections employees as well as people who read about the hard-luck life of the dogs.

The three dogs available are: Charlie, a male German Shepherd and Husky mix; Nikki, a female Labrador Retriever mix; and Buck, a male Bloodhound mix.

Reporters are invited. For more information, contact Chief Dave Allison at (907) 745-5343.