Who Are We: Canine CellMates began in June
2013 as a dedicated jail dog program in cooperation with the Fulton County Jail
in Atlanta, GA. Canine CellMates maintains a continuing partnership with the
Fulton County Animal Services (FCAS), the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and
the Fulton County Jail, allowing us the opportunity to save dogs from the
shelter by vetting them, training them and ultimately transforming them into
adoptable dogs, all while benefiting the inmates and the greater community.
Our Mission: Our mission is to provide a better life
for both the inmates in the Fulton County Jail and rescued shelter dogs from
FCAS. During an intensive 16 week course consisting of education, training
and overall care for the dogs, we hope to positively change both the dogs and
the inmates. During the 16 week program, an inmate is able to train two dogs,
one after the other. At the end of the training course, our goal is for the
dogs to pass the Canine Good
Citizen test and graduate from our program into a wonderful, forever home. We also aim
to provide viable job skills for the inmates and create a new overall lease on
life for both the dogs and the inmates.
What We Do: All of
the dogs selected for our program have undergone extensive temperament testing
with our dedicated Behavior Assessment team. Upon arrival at their temporary home in the
dormitory style setting within Fulton County Jail, each dog is assigned a
primary inmate handler, and on occasion, a secondary handler. This not only allows for more inmates to benefit from the
program, it also provides continuity for the dog, should one of the handlers
leave the program.
Certified dog trainers and training assistants conduct the
throughout the 16 week course, using positive training methods to teach the
inmates how to train and care for the dogs. Outside
of the work in the classroom, the inmates spend time during the day with their
dog, bonding and reinforcing the skills learned in class. We also have a strong educational component to our program — we bring speakers in to talk about issues such as Breed Specific Legislation, Tethering - the dangers and the alternatives, resources like Ahimsa House, and other professionals both inside and outside of the animal rescue community. A common theme is One Person Can Make a Difference. We truly believe that, “When you
know better, you do better.”
Why It Matters: In simple terms, this program changes
lives – both canine and human, by offering them a second chance at life. Both groups have faced
isolation and rejection by the outside world, but when they come together, they
often give each other a new found sense of hope, as they become the rescuer for
The benefits to the inmate handlers are many,
including: learning responsibility by caring for a living being, accountability
in working towards a goal, experiencing the joy of unconditional love,
gaining confidence in working toward a positive outcome and skills that will
allow them to become law abiding, productive members of society.
The incidence of violent outbursts
in prison and jail facilities where jail dog programs operate has shown a
dramatic decrease, sometimes as much as 50%. Recidivism rates have also shown
drastic improvements. The Atlanta metro area has had one of the highest
recidivism rates in the country, around 70% within the first two years after
release. With programs like this in place, it is likely that the Atlanta metro area will begin to show a reduction in this recidivism rate.
At FCAS, 30 to 40 animals in need
are added each day to the already overcrowded shelter population.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of space, many healthy, adoptable dogs are
euthanized. At Canine CellMates, we work in conjunction with FCAS to lower this
alarming statistic by providing community outreach, education and forever homes
for the Canine CellMate dogs.