CBS – Inmate Trainers And Their At-Risk Shelter Dogs Get A New Leash On Life In The Philadelphia Prison System

September 8, 2014

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By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Inmates and their dogs in the “New Leash On Life” program took part in graduation ceremonies in the Philadelphia Prison System’s Alternative and Special Detention division, including a cookout for the humans and treats for the canines.

Bleu, Brie, Cheddar, Colby, Gouda and Havarti, all at-risk shelter dogs spent three months in a training program, including 24/7 in cell blocks with their inmate-trainers. Now, they’re primed for a new life with adopted families on the outside, according to New Leash On Life’s Marian Marchese.

(credit: Steve Tawa/KYW)

(credit: Steve Tawa/KYW)

“These dogs have had very terrible past lives, and we want them to be in the right homes,” said Marchese.

One of them, Gouda, even has the personality and traits to become a service dog, for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

One of the trainers, Juan Bennett, who was matched up with Bleu, was dressed in street clothes, rather than an orange prison jumpsuit. He was released three weeks early, but asked to stay for three weeks to finish the program with his team. It wasn’t allowed, but he was applauded for the thought.

Another former inmate, Dwayne Marks, was Alumnus Guest Speaker.

“I’m a veterinary nurse, now,” Marks said.

He was part of a 2012 graduating class with rescue dogs from the city shelter, named after Phillies players; he had Shane.

Part of this year’s graduating class, inmate-trainer Kenneth Robinson, who spent time with Cheddar, thanked New Leash On Life for the opportunity to learn how to train and care for dogs.

“That’s exactly what this program is about. It’s about second chances,” Robinson said.

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