HENDERSON — For a group of dogs in western Kentucky, having bad manners landed them in jail.
Inmates at the Henderson County Detention Center are working with six dogs as part of a new training program to teach the dogs manners such as sitting and staying when told to, not growling and baring their teeth, being friendly to strangers and trusting humans.
The dogs were selected for the program by New Hope Animal Rescue Center, whose president Paula Hawkins told The Gleaner each dog sent to the jail was selected because they were "pretty tough" cases.
Six inmates at the local jail have been working with the dogs for about two months.
The jail "graduates" will go up for adoption on Dec. 1.
Capt. Joe Duncan, who directs the program, said the dogs are being put through simple obedience training to get them ready to return to a house shared with humans.
To prepare for the program, the captain first enrolled in some instructional classes himself, training through a PetSmart program. Then Duncan interviewed inmates for the six training slots. Only certain inmates are eligible.
"A couple of these dogs were highly abused (in the past) and were timid," Duncan said. "Now they don't know a stranger and they love everybody who comes around here."
Since late September, the six dogs have been spending the whole day with the inmates as the men go about their usual work routine of tending the jail garden and repairing mowing equipment and jail vehicles.
The dogs are taught the proper way to walk on a leash. They also learn to play fetch with tennis balls and Frisbees, making sure they understand to retrieve the object, bring it back and drop it on command.
"They're teaching them how to play and to get along with others," Duncan said. "We're trying to get these dogs to realize somebody cares about them."
Duncan said the program has proved beneficial to both the dogs and the inmates, many of whom aren't used to having responsibilities.