When These Dogs Were Deemed Unadoptable, They Got A Second Chance From An Unlikely Partnership

The ‘Puppies for Parole’ program matches inmates and unadopted dogs

When Mya was brought to The Animal Shelter of Texas County (TASTC) in Houston, Mo. three years ago, few people thought she would survive. The 2-year-old husky mix had been found on side of the road with a wound that indicated she had been shot with a shotgun at close range. Mya needed around-the-clock care, which was not something the volunteer-run animal shelter was able to offer her.

However, through a program created in partnership with the South Central Correctional Center in Licking and the Missouri Department of Corrections, Mya was nursed back to health, made a full recovery and was adopted by a loving family who would ensure she would never need such treatment again.


Mya today. The Animal Shelter of Texas County

Mya's story is like that many dogs who have gone through TASTC's Healing Paws program. The program is a subset of a statewide initiative called "Puppies for Parole" that brings dogs from overcrowded shelters to correctional facilities where inmates train the dogs in obedience commands, or, like in the case of Mya, administer medical treatment that does not require direct veterinary supervision. 

In the six-week program, each dog, usually one of 6-10, is paired with an inmate based on disciplinary record and interest. The dogs stay at the prison, including sleeping in the inmates' cells, and the inmates are responsible for their dogs at all times. Under the supervision of a professional trainer, the inmates teach the dogs obedience commands and work to eliminate any behaviors that make them less than ideal for adoption. 

According Shayla Black, a board member at TASTC, Puppies for Parole not only helps animals that may not otherwise find a home, the training the dogs receive help the adoptions stick. "They have a dog that's much better suited to be adopted than if they adopt from a shelter and see the dog needs training and they decide they don't want the dog anymore," said Black.

Black explained that the benefits of the program are two-fold. The program raises the quality of life for the inmates, who are also taught skills that could potentially be used to find a job upon release from prison. 

"They have a way to give back to society for whatever they've done in the past," said Black.

But for the dogs, the program can also be life-changing. Besides the training, dogs in the program are put on a highly-visible state registry of dogs available for adoption. Black says there have also been instances of the animals being adopted by employees of the correctional facility or families of the inmates. 

"The main thing is that it makes the dogs more adoptable," said Black. "There are dogs that would spend months or years in a shelter that may be looked over. Every dog that goes in the prison program usually gets adopted in a couple weeks. Some before their training is even finished."

Almost a year after graduating from the Puppies for Parole program, Mya returned to the South Central Correctional Center. Along with her adoptive family, she visited Richard Benedict, the inmate who guided her through the program. While the prison isn't her home anymore, it will always be the place where she got her second chance.

Mya sits with offender handlers Tommy Jordan, right, and Richard Benedict (who guided Mya through the program) during an anniversary event at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking. Standing in back is Licking resident Jenay Nelson, who adopted Mya along with her husband Dennis The Animal Shelter of Texas County

To learn more about the program or donate to the TASTC shelter, visit their website.

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Cover image via elbud Shutterstock


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