SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Inmates at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (PNM) will be training dogs from a northern New Mexico shelter. Española Animal Humane has partnered with New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) for a new program called “Paws in the Pen.”

A peer-certified trainer will be working with inmates on how to become trainers. After working with a trainer, the inmates will pass what they learned to the dogs, staying with them until the animals are ready to be adopted.

“I just love this program! The dogs bring a little bit of home to the facility, everyone’s faces just light up when the dogs are around,” said PNM Warden Sharlene Hagerman, “It’s really a great opportunity for the inmates to exercise responsibility and patience in caring for the dogs, and it is an example of another successful peer education program NMCD has implemented in the facility.”

The training may vary depending on what the dog needs, whether it be leash training, house training, or socialization. The shelter said the program could benefit the inmates as much as it does the dogs.

“There’s a term that we often use in the rescue world called ‘mutual rescue,’ and we see it often where people who adopt dogs say that the dog rescued them as much as they rescued the dog, and I feel that this is a different sort of mutual rescue,” said Mattie Allen with Española Animal Humane.

Right now, there are two inmates and two dogs in the state pen program, but both Española Animal Humane and the Corrections Department hope they can expand it. A similar program at the southern New Mexico prison near Las Cruces can train 14 dogs at a time.