At-Risk Dogs Graduate from Training Program With Jail Inmates | WBEZ
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At-Risk Dogs Graduate from Training Program With Jail Inmates

With tails wagging and tongues flopping, five pit bulls graduated Wednesday from a weeks-long training program at Cook County Jail.

The dogs were part of the Tails of Redemption program, which pairs inmates with dogs from Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) that might otherwise be euthanized. During the eight- to 10-week program, dogs live with their detainee handlers, who care for them and teach them basic commands like “sit” and “stay.”

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the program makes the dogs more adoptable and gives detainees an opportunity to thrive.

“It’s just a remarkable program,” he said. “I mean, it’s costing the taxpayers nothing, it’s saving animals’ lives, and for the detainees who’ve been involved with this program—they’ve just done amazing things.”

He credited Ald. Ray Lopez (15th Ward), who had an existing relationship with CACC, for bringing the program to fruition. Lopez is the owner of seven dogs.

“(This program) isn’t just merely about detainees and dogs. This is about second chances,” Lopez said.

Inmate Darrell White trained Dash, a dark grey pit bull. White called the dogs’ graduation bittersweet, explaining that he wants Dash to have a good home but will miss his company.

“With him being a pit bull,” White said, “most people—it scares them because they think every negative thing they’ve heard about pit bulls. But Dash, he’s a good dog. He just wants the physical affection and he just wants the love.”

The graduation ceremony swapped keynote speeches for demonstrations of the dogs’ new tricks. The pooches were then given a certificate of completion and a new collar. Wednesday’s graduating class is the second cohort of dogs since the program began in 2018.

Lopez would like to expand the program so that inmates who’ve trained dogs get a direct path to volunteer at CACC once they leave jail.

Three of the five pit bulls, including Dash, remain available for adoption through the sheriff’s office and CACC.

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