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To the dogs: new Norfolk inmate program helps SPCA pups find new homes

3-year-old bulldog, Fiona.


Norfolk, Va. - Every Friday, the SPCA brings dogs like Fiona, a 3-year-old bulldog, to the Norfolk City Jail.

Fiona is chosen because the SPCA is having trouble finding Fiona a permanent home.

Thanks to the Dog Enrichment Program, however, inmates at the Norfolk City Jail teach older dogs like Fiona, new tricks.

Through the program, inmates learn how to teach a dog basic commands.

“I learned how to make the dog sit, go down, roll over,” said Derek James, an inmate at the jail who has participated in the program since its inception.

The SPCA hopes Fiona's new tricks will help her stand out in a sea of kennels.

The benefits are not just for the dogs, however.

“These [inmates] are not in their home. These dogs don’t have a forever home yet. It’s taking that and really using it as a healing process, and getting them to bond with each other," Mackenzie Towell, a canine services supervisor with the Norfolk SPCA, explained to NewsChannel 3, shortly after Friday's class.

Training helps inmates, like Tony Brown, learn more about themselves. Brown has been in and out of jail 19 times.

Brown says he sees himself in Fiona sometimes.

“[Fiona] is a little stubborn," said Brown. “She likes to get her treats.”

Inmates say this program give them a sense of purpose, in place where purpose can be hard to find.

“Even though we have made wrong decisions, we are still trying to become better productive citizens of the outside world," said James. "A lot of us are actually doing programs to better ourselves. that when we step back out into the outside world, we’ll know the right things to do, and be able to make better decisions."

Written by:  POSTED 4:18 PM, MARCH 27, 2016.



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