Pit Sisters, based in Jacksonville, Florida, runs a program called TAILS or Teaching Animals & Inmates Life Skills. The program pairs hard-to-adopt shelter dogs with inmates for 8-14 weeks and once the pups graduate, they’re available for adoption. 

The dogs learn skills needed to thrive in a home and also get 24/7 love and care. Not all dogs are suitable for the program and inmates undergo interviews to make sure they are the right fit for the program. 

Inmates who have a history of violence or arson are not allowed to participate. They also need to be on their best behavior for risk of being removed from TAILS. 

We dropped in on a training session at the Montgomery Correctional Center, which is just one of the facilities that has the TAILS program. Each dog has a trainer and a handler and they work on commands like sit, stay, settle and leave it. 

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the dorms, but the dogs live and sleep next to their handler and they’re allowed to be off-leash only when they’re working on a training command like leave it, wait or come when called. 

The dogs we saw had various pasts. Some were within a day of being euthanized, some were rescued from a hoarding situation, some from a rural shelter in the path of a hurricane and another was starved and came in just skin and bones.

Jen Deane, founder of Pit Sisters, visits the facilities to do site visits and run training sessions. “We’d love to expand TAILS, expand this program and provide resources to other jurisdictions. 

Officer Iree, Montgomery Correctional Facility Canine Coordinator, told us about a specific inmate who was not doing well behaviorally, but after being admitted in to TAILS, she saw a complete turn around. “Giving him a chance to participate has had such an affect on him. He just needed something to do.”

Inmates and hard-to-adopt shelter dogs help each other learn valuable life lessons.

If you are interested in learning more about TAILS or Pit Sisters, please visit pitsisters.org