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Jail program to give dogs second life

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Some of Gwinnett's four-legged inmates will get a reprieve from the death chamber -- and the two-legged inmates could get a second chance, too -- in a newly created program at the county jail.

Sheriff Butch Conway is partnering with the Society of Human Friends on a program to pair prisoners with pooches in an attempt to save them both.

Ten inmates will be chosen for the pilot program, where dogs slated to be euthanized at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter will be rescued. They will live in kennels in jail cells, and the inmates will be responsible for their care.

"It's proven to save prisoners, too," said Dennis Kronenfeld of the Society of Humane Friends. "The prisoners develop an attitude toward something other than themselves."

Man's best friend, he said, can melt the heart of the most hardened criminal, and maybe rehabilitate them both.

That's the goal for Conway, who has rescued and rehabilitated dozens of dogs with his wife, State Court Judge Carla Brown.

"I'm excited about it. I think it's going to do some good," Conway said. "It'll save the dogs and help the inmates."

The Society has volunteered to take care of spaying, neutering and vet bills, as well as provide the kibble, so the program will be at no expense to taxpayers, Conway noted.

And officials with the Lawrenceville Kennel Club have arranged for volunteer trainers to teach the inmates how to care for, socialize and train the dogs, giving them a new chance at adoption.

Much like programs to bring pets to hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up people there, organizers hope the inmates will get a new outlook on life, too.

"These kind of things make a difference," Kronenfeld said.

Conway said he hopes to create policies, choose the inmates and kick-start the program in the coming weeks.