West Boylston – Helping shelter pets live better lives – and helping people as well.  On Friday, June 10th, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office & The Second Chance Animal Shelter celebrated the One Year Anniversary of Project Good Dog, a proud partnership that helps shelter pets receive needed training and/or additional assistance prior to adoption.

Inmates from the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction help to train Walker, a 10 month old redbone coon-hound, who is currently in the Project Good Dog Program and is available for adoption. (Submitted photo)

Inmates from the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction help to train Walker, a 10 month old redbone coon-hound, who is currently in the Project Good Dog Program and is available for adoption. (Submitted photo)

The program, launched in April of 2015 pairs behaviorally needy shelter dogs from East Brookfield’s Second Chance Animal Shelter with inmates at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction who provide them with 24/7 care and training. The inmates, who are classified as low-risk and earn their way into the program, work with the dogs on socialization, basic obedience, housebreaking and sometimes a trick or two.   The program not only provides a benefit to the dogs but also has positive results for the handlers who learn patience, compassion and responsibility.

Many of the inmates say that it also gives them a focus while they transition back into the community.  The training the dogs receive while in the program helps them to become more adoptable and stay in their in their homes and since its one year inception, all twenty dogs who have gone through the Project Good Dog Program have been adopted into loving homes.

In all, twenty-six inmates at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction have provided the prison pooches with their immediate care and training and over 300 inmates assigned to the work release building have had one on one contact with the shelter dogs and the bond has made a lasting impression.  “While I feel like I was able to help these dogs get better, it was them that helped me get better. All those hours spent with them has softened that part of me that has become tough and calloused after so many years in prison, and reminded me that caring about and helping others is an important part of being a member of humanity.”  said inmate & project good dog trainer Richard Velazquez.

On Friday, June 10th it was the inmate handlers who had a class reunion of sorts when seven of their former students returned to the jail with their tails wagging and their adoptive families in tow in recognition of the program’s overwhelming success and One Year Anniversary Celebration.  “This program means a lot to these dogs because it gives them an opportunity to be adopted much faster.”  said Lindsay Doray, Adoption Center Manager at the Second Chance Animal Shelter.  “We get a lot of dogs that are either crazy and have no manners or they come in and they are scared to death, they never had the interaction they are able to get up here.”

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis with Representatives from Ellie's Pet Barn who donated 10 large breed kennel/crates and dog beds during the One Year Anniversary celebration event on June 10th in support of the Project Good Dog Program (Submitted photo)

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis with Representatives from Ellie’s Pet Barn who donated 10 large breed kennel/crates and dog beds during the One Year Anniversary celebration event on June 10th in support of the Project Good Dog Program (Submitted photo)

John and Annmarie Lapierre who adopted their one year old Australian sheep mix Walter on March 31st found their newest family member thanks to the jail’s Project Good Dog Program. “We fell in love with Walter immediately, he loves our two daughters and our cat.  He’s such a beautiful and loving dog, he just wants to be friends with everyone.”

Also during the celebration, Ellie’s Pet Barn of Holden donated 10 large breed kennel/crates and dog beds in support of the program and Sheriff Evangelidis presented The Second Chance Animal Shelter with a special citation.  “In recognition of the one-year anniversary of Project Good Dog; helping shelter pets live better lives while helping incarcerated individuals turn their lives around.” the sheriff said.

“Having the dogs here at our correctional facility for the past year has not only lifted the inmates spirits, it has created a more upbeat atmosphere in the entire building.  The reduction in the stress level and tension has also made a safer environment for our correctional staff as well.  Studies have shown that inmates who bond with animals while incarcerated have lower rates of re-offending and going back to jail.  The best part of the program, all twenty dogs who have graduated from Project Good Dog have been adopted into loving homes.”  said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

To learn more about the Project Good Dog Program please visit:

 www.worcestercountysheriff.com or www.secondchanceanimals.org.