Special Photo The Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department held a cookout Wednesday to celebrate the third anniversary of its jail dog program, in which inmates train canines and prepare them for adoption. Mackenzie Murray, 12, of Duluth (left) was honored by Capt. Melinda Allen (center) for her efforts selling bracelets and other handmade goods to raise money for the program.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Over the last eight months, 12-year-old Mackenzie Murray has had eight dogs. And no, her parents aren't crazy.
The Duluth Middle School student began making and selling bracelets and accessories out of paracord -- a lightweight but super strong rope used in parachutes -- last year. When she started making a little money, she "didn't want to use it for myself" and began looking for charities.
Enter the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office and its jail dog program, in which canines are rescued from animal shelters before inmates train and otherwise get them ready for adoption. For the last eight months or so, Murray has sold those bracelets via Facebook and used the proceeds to sponsor dogs in the program.
Thus the one-dog-per-month average.
"We thought it was a very, very great program," Murray said.
The jail dogs program (officially "Operation Second Chance") celebrated its third anniversary with a cookout Wednesday, Sheriff Butch Conway and the Society of Humane Friends welcoming in all those who have lent a hand in making it a success. Since its inception in 2010, the jail has rescued 173 dogs -- the 156 that have been adopted and the 17 currently working with inmates.
When it was started, Operation Second Chance was believed to be the only such program in the country being operated at a county jail. After being thoroughly screened, inmate handlers live with the dogs 24/7, sleeping with them, feeding them, bathing them and working with volunteers to help train them.
The canines typically see a quick turnaround in demeanor and obedience.
Virginia Keller from the Society of Humane Friends is a vocal (and vivacious) fundraiser for the jail dogs program.
"It's not the answer to the pet overpopulation problem, but you know what?" she said Wednesday. "It brings focus, it makes people realize that we have a problem."
For more information or to adopt a dog, visit jaildogs.org.
Murray's products can be perused and purchased by searching for "Mackenzie Shaye's Creations" on Facebook.