LINCOLN – A local program that partners with the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services is celebrating a major milestone. For 15 years, Second Chance Pups has been working with trainers from the Nebraska State Penitentiary (NSP), to prepare dogs for adoption. Recently, the program wrapped up on its 50th rotation and has already launched its newest class.
Second Chance Pups selects dogs taken in by animal shelters and rescue facilities and adopts them out, after they have been thoroughly trained by program participants at the penitentiary. To date, 350 men have taken part in the program. More than 450 dogs have been adopted out to new homes. The program first launched at NSP in 2004 and has been going strong ever since.
“The interaction that participants experience when working with their dogs is transformational,” noted NDCS Director Scott R. Frakes. “The responsibility of caring for and training an animal allows each participant to gain new skills and feel a sense of purpose.”
The dogs come from Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas. During nine weeks of obedience training, they are taught how to sit, heel and stay, as well as more complex skills like maneuvering through a crowd and greeting strangers.
Casey Collamore has been involved in Second Chance Pups for two years. He recently received his tenth dog to train. He explained that the program keeps him busy and away from negative influences. “To be in the dog program, you have to learn how to be responsible. Having a dog is like having a best friend with you all of the time. It’s that companionship that gives me a reason to smile every morning.”
“The trainers often relate to the shelter dogs they train,” noted Melissa Ripley, Second Chance Pups trainer and adoption coordinator. “Many times, they never experienced success in the community. It’s good to see them be successful in training the dogs and taking pride in what they are doing. They learn new skills they can take back into the community, wherever they go.”
Robert Dunkin has also been training dogs through Second Chance Pups for the last two years. He said the program has changed him for the better. “I like the fact that we can save five or six dogs every few months. Having a dog to wake up to really makes a difference in my mood and has changed my life. It’s well worth it.”
“The goal is to socialize the dogs so that they are prepared to enter a new home,” explained Ripley. “We take care to match individuals to the dog that best suits them.”
All dogs selected for the program are vaccinated, groomed, spayed or neutered and are up to date on their heartworm prevention. All dogs are micro-chipped. Those that are ready for adoption can be viewed on the Second Chance Pups Facebook page. Anyone interested in adopting a dog can find an application on the program’s website: www.secondchancepups.com. Once selected, the person adopting the dog will also undergo a brief training session with their new pet.
“Second Chance Pups has been a tremendous partner to NDCS. Everyone who has been part of the program can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in its success,” said Director Frakes.