Inmates Serve Time Helping Animals

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The Bay Correctional Institute already has a program called the "Cell Dog Program" that helps train dogs to aid disabled people. Now some of the inmates have volunteered to go to work nearby at the new Bay County Animal Shelter.

Both sides say they get a lot out of the partnership. Every morning, five days a week, Bay Correctional Institute sends inmates to the new animal shelter. It's not so much of a chore to the inmates as it is a way to share time with the animals who also know what it's like to be behind bars.

Animal shelter workers welcome their help.

Mary Kirlin, the division manager, says, "With 100 cat cages and 100 dog kennels, it's a full-time job, and these gentlemen come in and give it 100 percent of their time."

The extra help is a two-way street. The county is saving almost $100,000 a year by not having to hire full-time employees, and the inmates get a chance to interact with the animals and work and train dogs for the disabled.

Although this help has been happening since the shelter opened, Bay County commissioners will make it all official at their board meeting Tuesday.

Bob Majka, Chief of Emergency Services, says, "They've been doing it basically on a handshake until this point, and this is a formal agreement that lays out the number of inmates they'll supply to us on a daily basis and the days of the week they'll be there, and what our expectations are and what services they'll provide."

The inmates are considered to be low-risk minimum security individuals. They are carefully screened before being allowed to help out with the animals.

A corrections officer stays with the inmates at all times, but just like the animals they're helping, they just want a second chance.