Local program helps dogs and inmates find a ‘New Leash On Life’

It`s not easy work, but it is very rewarding. And Bradley Laws and Callie are quickly becoming best friends.

The two are part of A New Leash on Life, a 10-week program at Forsyth Correctional Center.

"It's not just a dog-training program," said Candide Jones, president of Piedmont Animal Welfare Alliance. "It's redemptive for humans and dogs."

The dogs learn new skills, obedience and socialization to get them ready for adoption. But beyond that, their trainers, who are inmates, develop self-confidence, patience and compassion.

"They're in prison and they're in prison for a reason, but they're also human beings who they want to have a good life," said Jones. "Maybe they haven't known how to do it, and I think this program teaches them that."

A New Leash on Life focuses on dogs from small rescues that aren`t easily adoptable — from the very rambunctious to the super timid.

"The ultimate goal is to find loving homes for these dogs who very well might be euthanized if they weren't in this program," said Jones.

And according to Jones who's volunteered with the program since 2009, it's working in more ways than one. PAWA is a non-profit that partners with Forsyth Correctional Center to make the program a success.

"In North Carolina, the recidivism rate is about 45% for this program," said Jones. "We were able to get the statistics for the last five years and the recidivism rate for our program has been zero. Nobody's gone back."

Just look at Danny Rawley, a board member and volunteer. He went through the program as an inmate and has now been out for nine years.

"It`s a program that gave me hope when I didn't have any," said Rawley. "It gave me a sense of responsibility when I didn't have none."

And that`s part of what volunteers say makes it so successful changing men's lives, one dog at a time.

"Dogs can reach the human heart in a way that people can't," Jones said.

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