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Pit Bulls Behind Bars: In This Case, A Good Thing!

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Four dogs rescued by Detroit Dog Rescue are headed to a northern Michigan prison as part of an obedience program to prepare them for adoption. (Photos: Detroit Dog Rescue)

Only a year ago, the four pit bulls in the van might have faced their final needle at the hands of Detroit Animal Control, but the city-run shelter is making genuine efforts to work with rescues. But since the replacement of its former director, and a host of improved partnerships, hundreds of dogs (nearly eight in 10 are pit bulls/pit mixes) have found new homes.

And that number is based on the rescues arranged through Detroit Dog Rescue alone.

The aforementioned dogs are instead headed to northern Michigan where they’ll enjoy life within the walls Kinross Correctional Facility. They will live with their temporary charges, inmates who will train them, before being put up for adoption to permanent homes.

The program is called Making Pawsitive Changes; it’s two years old and thus far, has proven beneficial for both the prisoners and dogs, Chippewa County Animal Shelter Director Holly Henderson told Mlive.com. It’s an eight-week program that places six dogs with six, two-inmate handler teams; 12 prisoners in all.

“The guys — most of them are either in for many years or they’re not going to be released. For the first time, they realize (there’s) something to care about, sometimes for the first time in many years.”

Henderson said the two-inmate teams spend 24 hours a day with their assigned dog, responsible for care and basic obedience training. Once the dogs are done with the prison stint, they could be ready for adoption.

A professional dog trainer donates her time in once-weekly visits to help the handlers along in their mission.

The program is popular; Henderson says there’s a waiting list for inmates who want their chance to train rescue dogs.

One such inmate, Keith Fischer, was part of the program shorty after it launched 2014, told the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News the impact of the animals goes beyond the handlers. He spoke of a fellow prisoner brought to tears just bending down to pet his dog, Tracker, while walking on the prison yard.

“Living with Tracker had its good days and its great days,” Fisher told the Sault Ste. Marie News. “There was never a bad day.”

The dogs, currently named Bubbles, Norman, Samoa and Glory, were rescued from the Detroit Animal Control shelter by Harper Woods-based Detroit Dog Rescue. Detroit Dog Rescue connected with Chippewa County to place the dogs in the prisoner training program.

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