Program at New Mexico prison helps inmates and homeless dogs

New Mexico

A New Mexico prison is participating in a program that’s two-fold. It gives inmates a purpose, while also helping out homeless dogs.

The Roswell Correctional Center has partnered up with a no-kill shelter out of Hagerman, in a state-wide program called “Hope for Paws.”

“I looked at it as, you know, an opportunity to better myself and a dog, and just hopefully change the both of us,” said inmate Jared Armendariz.

It was implemented last October, aimed at making the unwanted dogs more adoptable and giving the inmates a purpose.

“It helps your time go by a lot faster because you’re doing something that matters, to not just yourself, but somebody else, and as far as the animal goes as well,” said inmate Rusty Betts.

“Every dog is vetted by the shelter, comes in here, we match them up with an inmate that they spend 24 hours a day together,” said Warden Ruben Benavidez.

The dogs go through a 6-12 week training course with their inmate handler, learning basic tricks like sit, stay, roll over and shake.

“I work with mine about three or four times a day at least,” said Betts.

They also learn how to socialize with people and other dogs. The program has had an overwhelming response in the prison.

“Everybody wants to come see your dog, pet your dog. It’s improved the atmosphere remarkably around here,” said Betts. “When you’re feeling down, there’s something about puppy kisses that just ends everything, you know.”

“Once you introduce these dogs into the human population, our incident levels go down,” said Benavidez.

“It’s changed me a lot. I’ve kind of grown as a person and a man. It’s weird to say, but the dogs have changed me a lot,” said Armendariz.

They just adopted their first dog out and can’t wait to help find more their forever homes.

“If we can give them any kind of hope, that’s the best really,” said Betts.

Benavidez says they plan to expand the program, taking on a larger number of dogs soon. They also hope to start training some of them to be comfort animals.

If you’re interested in adopting one of the dogs from this program, contact the All Hearts 4 Paws shelter.

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