Travis County Correctional Complex in Del Valle, Texas may be getting some new inmates.
According to myStatesman, the city of Austin and Travis County are looking to send a mother cat, her litter of kittens, and three dogs to Travis Country Jail, where inmates will help train and socialize the animals to make the pets better candidates for adoption.
The proposed program aims to benefit animals in need of training and inmates in need of some positive life experiences.
"The jail is not a happy place, and it really shouldn't be," said Heather Stan, a social service program coordinator for the Travis County Sheriff's Office. "But for some of these guys, they never have been able to do something positive in their life."
The Austin City Council will vote on two agreements with the county that would create the pilot programs for the cats and dogs. The Travis County Commissioners Court will also need to approve the agreements.
If approved, the cats would live in a special jail pod, where they would be exposed to female inmates who would help care for the mother and the kittens while the dogs would live among male inmates.
"From the Animal Center's perspective, this is an opportunity to get these animals additional socialization," said Lee Ann Shenefiel, Austin's interim chief animal services officer. "It also helps us meet our no-kill goals."
Travis County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kristen Dark said the inmates training the animals will be subject to a strict vetting process and no inmates who have been charged with or convicted of a violent crime will be in contact with the animals.
"This is not something that will be done with maximum security inmates," Dark said. "It is a privilege that only certain inmates will qualify for."
Grant funding will pay for the program, which will be staffed by volunteers at the Austin Animal Center. If the city and county approve the plan, the pilot program is estimated to begin this winter.
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