|'Death Row' Dogs Get Second Chance|
|By BRANDI HITT||Apr 2, 2013, 5:04 PM|
Dogs once destined for "death row" are getting a second chance at life in the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail.
In the Custody Canine Program, 36 inmates take care of two dogs every five weeks. Each dog is rescued from a shelter, days before it is scheduled to be euthanized.
This time around the inmates are caring for Jet, a one-year-old puppy, and Glock, a German Shepherd.
"I think it's a good thing for these guys and for us," said inmate Caesar Cunanan, who is serving time on a drug charge. The 35-year-old says he's formed a special bond with Jet. "I've almost died on the street, too. I've been shot. Just to give this guy another chance, because I'm thankful for me having another chance at living, too."
The inmates live with the canines 24 hours a day, bathing, feeding and training the dogs so they can find a new home.
Dog behaviorist Rick Belmonte helps the inmates teach the dogs to sit, stay, heel and much more. Belmonte said the special bond the men have formed with the dogs will help them integrate back into society without reoffending.
"They're starting to walk taller. I've seen people who are shy, speaking louder," Belmonte said. "They're feeling a sense of empowerment. I think that confidence will help them get a job interview."
And every dog that has come through the Custody Canine Program has been adopted.
At first, Sgt. Raymond Harley with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was surprised to see dogs roaming the halls of the jail. Now, he said he believes they help keep inmates from acting out while they are behind bars.
"The inmates are much more calm and relaxed," Harley said.
The sheriff's department is also now working on expanding the program to two additional jails.
Cunanan has one more year left on his sentence and is now considering adopting a dog once he's free, because he says time with Jet is changing his life.
"Having a job with Jet has made me probably more responsible," Cunanan said.