-- A group of inmates at a California state prison are providing shelter, care and love for dozens of deaf dogs that were recently forced to evacuate a nearby shelter threatened by a wildfire.
Nearly 50 dogs at the Deaf Dogs Rescue of America in Acton, California, were evacuated this past Sunday evening after the shelter's directors -- Lisa Tipton and her husband Mark Tipton -- noticed flames from the Sand Fire blowing in their direction.
"We're pretty high up on a hill and we didn't want to take a chance on floating embers 'cause all it takes is one to light this whole place up," Lisa Tipton told ABC News today. She said she called dozens of local centers, shelters and other rescues, but only the California State Prison in Los Angeles County offered to take all the dogs, no questions asked.
The state prison -- which is located in Lancaster, California -- has group of inmates involved with a program called Paws 4 Life, which matches inmates with dogs from county shelters that are at high risk for euthanization, according to Kristina Khokobashvili, a public information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The inmates take in the dogs and work with professional trainers to socialize them, teach them basic obedience and ultimately help them pass the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test, Khokobashvili told ABC News today. Dogs that pass the test get a certificate showing that they know basic commands and how to interact peacefully with others -- thus increasing their chances of adoption.
More than 70 dogs taken in by the prison's inmates have been successfully adopted out to forever homes in the two years since Paws 4 Life's inception, Khokobashvili said.
And so when Lisa Tipton brought nearly 50 of her rescue dogs to the jail Sunday night, she said she knew "they were in good hands."
"When we came by the next morning, every single dog had a smile on their face and was enjoying themselves," Tipton said. "Even the pretty difficult dogs I thought would get snappy were thriving."
Tipton credited the inmates' genuine joy and care as the reason for why the pups adjusted so well despite such a stressful situation.
Inmate David Dougall told ABC-owned station KABC that interacting with the dogs and other people involved with program "gives me life again" and "gives me my spirit back."
Jon Grobman, another inmate, said that "Paws 4 Life restored my faith in humanity -- that I'm a person, that I matter."
He added, "It gave me the opportunity to care for something, love something."