New York prison pairs up with shelter for PAWSitivity Canine Training Program

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JOHNSTOWN, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Some area shelter dogs are going behind bars. But it’s a really good thing. It is all part of a new program that pairs pets with incarcerated individuals, so they can create a brighter future for themselves.

Richard Mead and Duke may have their own complicated backstories, but they are both betting on brighter futures.

“I didn’t know the real me until this,” says Richard.

Their bond was forged inside the walls of the Hale Creek Correctional Facility in Johnstown. Richard began his prison term in 2018.

“I’ve leaned a lot. My past was addiction. I didn’t realize what real life was.”

As for Duke, he found himself at the Fulton County Regional SPCA shelter. You might say that going behind bars was the luckiest break he could have had.

He’s now enrolled in a new cooperative program between the shelter and Hale Creek called the PAWSitivity Canine Training Program. It’s where pets like Duke are paired up with incarcerated individuals who help train and prepare pets for adoption within a loving, forever family.

“We are here to rebuild them. So they can learn to live again. And more or less that they are loved,” says Richard.

“The dogs learn skills that we may not have time to teach them inside the shelter. The people learn so many things that they wouldn’t learn outside of a correctional facility,” says Renee Earl, of the Fulton County Regional SPCA.

The program began in September, and a few matches have already been made like between Molly and her new humans Lexii Nolan and William McGovern.

“She’s great, she’s great. Better than anything I could have asked for,” says Lexii.

Each session runs for six weeks, and each week, a new skill is learned. The companion trainers who request to participate in the program must be non-violent offenders and have no history of animal or domestic abuse. The dogs live with them side-by-side in the correctional facility until the day they are adopted.

In a few weeks, a new chapter will begin for both Duke and Richard. That’s as Richard’s time at Hale Creek comes to an end and Duke graduates from the program.

“This program here, and people who want to do this program, it’s going to make themselves better inside. It’s going to better them with animals, too,” says Richard.

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