Pups on Parole: Inmates and Dogs Helping Each Other

SUSANVILLE, CA - Each year thousands of abandoned animals end up in area shelters. The sad truth is many never leave alive.

But 80 miles north of Reno a group of men are helping change that equation.

The setting is a prison, the California Correction Center near Susanville.

This is a story of second chances. Visit the grounds of the prison fire house just outside the walls. Everyone you see, man and dog, is doing time. Each has arrived here damaged, their lives having taken a wrong turn.

The men are here for a variety of non-violent offenses, drugs, d-u-i's, property crimes. Their past problems all-too-well-known to them and the system.

Little is known about the dogs. Evidence though often points to lives of abuse and neglect. At the very least they've been abandoned, discarded by whoever was once responsible for them.

It's not too much to say that sending them to prison may be the first kind act most have seen in some time.

'Some are malnourished," observes inmate trainer/handler Jose Munoz, looking over Joey, a small mixed breed who is his current companion.

"Some have been abused. Some have been on the street," adds Eric Glebow.

"We get a lot of strays," says Sam Covert. "Dogs that have had trouble with other dogs, people don't want them anymore."

Jose Munoz, Eric Glebow, Sam Covert and the 14 other men here have all earned the opportunity to live outside the wall at the prison fire house.

This is a functioning fire department serving the surrounding communities. When they're not training, fighting fires or responding to emergencies. They're working with the dogs.

"We're in the same situation, both behind bars," says Covert, "we've both hit a rough patch and it gives us an opportunity to show some emotion that we don't really get to show in a place like this."

Man and dog together preparing themselves for life on the outside.
"We spend so much time with them," says Glebow. "They even sleep right next to us. We get to train them, see them grow. I get to express myself with the dog. I get to let loose of some of the things that are going wrong with me. I get to feel loved. The dogs bring that out."

"In here every body's trying to be the tough guy," says Covert. "but when you're with the animals you get to release some of that and so you lose so much of yourself and you get retain more of what you'll need when you get back out in society.

Adoptions are a bitter sweet moment for the inmates.

"They're going to a better place and hopefully they've been rehabilitated. We get to put them back in the world better than they came in which we're hoping to do with ourselves as well."

Pups on Parole is closing in on 300 adoptions, a goal they hope to reach by their 5th anniversary next month.

The dogs all come from the Lassen County Animal Shelter. They are released to the county humane society and taken to the prison.

There are seven dogs at any one time in the program. You'll find pictures and bios for some of them here on our website under "Hot Topics"


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