Maximum security women's prison gets dog rehab program - CBS46 News

Maximum security women's prison gets dog rehab program

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ALTO, GA (CBS46) -

It's not every day a dog scheduled to be killed at the shelter gets a new lease on life. But that is exactly what's happening at Lee Arrendale State Prison.

A new program called "Forever Friends" pairs seven dogs with seven inmates who then train the dogs that were deemed unadoptable into well-mannered pets.

The Habersham County Animal Shelter is not a no-kill facility. In fact, workers at the shelter approached the Warden nearly two years ago about jump-starting the program. On Tuesday, two years of hard work ended with a ribbon cutting and ceremony.

"Before this program, I was a very lost person. I was broken," inmate and dog trainer Pearl Hartley said. Hartley said a drug addiction landed her in prison. She has served three years of an eight-year sentence. Hartley was convicted of forgery in the first degree.

"I know longer hate the world, I no longer feel like there is a label on my chest. I feel human again. So, it has been a blessing," Hartley said.

Hartley was paired up with an 18-month-old black Labrador named Angel. Angel was neglected and spent the first part of her life living in a crate that was made for a small dog, similar to a Pomeranian.

"When she first came here, she had to be sedated, she was that scared," Hartley said.

Angel has been in training at the prison for six weeks. The goal is to put the dogs through a 12-week program and then have them adopted to a loving home. As Hartley hugs on Angel and kisses her snout, she is overcome with joy. She has found happiness in a place you'd never expect - behind the high security walls of a maximum security state prison.

The prison is the largest female facility in Georgia. It houses more than 1,500 inmates. Only seven were picked after a rigorous application process to be trainers in this program.

The lead trainer for the program, Andrew Kitchens, said he hopes to expand the program to 12 dogs by next year.

Hartley said she feels blessed to have been given this opportunity.

"I would have never thought I would be living with a dog, being able to love a dog while confined within these walls. Or find joy in the little things," Hartley said. "I have learned structure and how to be a better person, and how to love myself during the process."

Hartley couldn't help but draw parallels between her life and the dog she is training.

"Hopefully, like they do, we will get our second chances in life to just live, we deserve that," Hartley said.

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