YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There are a lot of dogs living in shelters that aren’t considered adoptable, but some of them are now getting a second chance by getting paired with men in jail.

CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock went behind bars to see how it works.

Six prisoners are partnered with six pooches for six weeks of training at the Yaphank Correctional Facility. CBS2 accepted an invitation Wednesday to watch a demonstration of Handcuffs to Healing.

Michael Gould, president of Houndstown Charities, proposed the pilot program to Suffolk County earlier this year. He said the dogs, many classified as bully breeds, are discriminated against.

“They have a very difficult time getting adopted because of the stereotype, their size and power,” Gould said.

But he said their brains are no different than those of poodles.

“They’re waiting for love and leadership,” Gould said.

For a canine to be considered for the program, they need to meet three criteria. They need to be in need of a good home, good with other dogs, and most importantly, good with other people.

That is where inmates come in. Partnerships between the men in jail and man’s best friends have big results for both.

Inmate Joseph Dima said there is more to his decision to help train a dog named Carl.

“I love dogs,” he said. “When I found out like what it would be, you know, to help them get a home, I kind of felt like, you know, a little give-back.”

“Honestly, I didn’t want to work with this dog at first, because it was really rambunctious,” inmate Michael Lounsbury said of a dog named Ramsey.

But now, after just a couple of weeks, Lounsbury said he already sees a dramatic difference in Ramsey’s disposition.

“Now, I mean, it’s pretty much you don’t even need to speak to the dog,” he said. “It knows what you want it to do, you know, just by your movements.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said he is loving the program.

“These dogs are perfectly trained now,” he said. “They’re ready for human contact. They’ve been socialized.”

And in just three weeks’ time when the program wraps, they will be ready for adoption into their forever homes.

Inmates work with dogs three nights a week for two hours at a time. Gould put up thousands of dollars of his own money to make the pilot program possible, and he is hoping generous donors will keep it going.


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