New Benton County Program Pairs Inmates With Shelter Dogs

BENTON COUNTY (KFSM)-- The Benton County Sheriff's Office announced a new program called New Leash on Life that aims to help female offenders.

The program pairs the offenders who meet certain criteria with dogs from various shelters around the county.

These dogs may need some extra training before they can be adopted.

One of the women currently in the program is Tanis Whaley. She said she had never owned a pet before.

Now she is responsible for two of them, Cruise and Mr. Beans.

"It's easy to lose hope when you're behind walls, but they give you hope," Whaley said. "When you see them progressing every day from being in the back of a cage terrified to now he goes up to men with no hesitations."

She explained that Mr. Beans came from an abusive home and would not go up to men.

By working with him, he is not as afraid as he once was.

Clinton Morgan, the executive director for the Humane Society for Animals in Rogers, said many of the dogs they get are abused in some way.

Cruise was one of those dogs, but Morgan said he isn't the same dog that came into his shelter.

"It's all consistent here, he's much more obedient,' Morgan said."He knows to sit, stay, shake, lay down, much better on a leash. It's night and day difference."

Whaley said many of the women in H Pod are just like Mr. Beans and Cruise.

They too come from abusive homes.

But these dogs are training them just like they are training the dogs.

"You go from the streets where your mind is in the worldly ways and then you come in here and you reform your mind to be the right way," Whaley said. "So we kind of go through the process of interchanging, so we do it together."

Every day, the women in the program are required to keep a journal of the dog's progress.

Once they are done with the program they will be adopted and their new families will receive the reports the women have made.

Whaley explained if there is one thing she and the other women have learned so far from these animals, it's that things can change.

"It gives them a sense of, you know, they have a future if these guys have a future," Whaley said. "He was on death row. So if they can make it, we can make it too."