TAILS saves the lives of rescue dogs while changing the lives of prison inmates.
When dogs are rescued from fighting rings, most of them are put to death. Born into circumstances beyond their control, these dogs are often thought of as "unfit" to reenter society.
But when a pit bull named Sugar Mama was pulled out of a fighting ring in Florida, county officials, volunteers, and prison officials worked together to change her story. She was put into a program called TAILS (Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills), and her life was saved.
TAILS is an animal rescue organization in Jackson, Florida that connects rescue dogs with prison inmates. The goal of the program is to benefit both the dogs and the inmates by means of reciprocal relationships. The dogs are prepped for adoption, and the inmates prepare for their eventual release.
Sugar Mama's immersion into the program had a special impact on Jason Bertrand, a 33-year-old inmate who has spent nearly half his life in prison. Bertrand told People:
"I have been incarcerated for a long time and haven't really had relationships with other people or animals. Sugar Mama allowed me to have a relationship with another living being. I still get emotional talking about it and I'm trying not to do that now."
Bertrand's story is only one example of the successful partnerships built by the TAILS program. They recently surpassed their goal of graduating 200 dogs. 198 of those rescues have been adopted, and the remaining two are in foster care.
Once the dogs graduate from the training program, TAILS looks to their partners, Pit Sisters and the Lake City Humane Society, to find them forever homes. That is, if they don't go home with their formerly incarcerated handlers. Bertrand already knows that when he's released in December, he'll pay the $40 adoption fee to bring Sugar Mama home with him.
Without TAILS, Sugar Mama and her fellow rescue dogs would have been euthanized. For one reason or another, they were deemed "unadoptable." Traccee Sule, owner of Zoomeez Dog Training said,
"A lot of these dogs came from backgrounds that didn't give them a fair start in life. That's also true of some of the inmates. This program truly benefits both groups."
TAILS is partnered with several correctional facilities throughout the state. Each facility has a group of volunteers that guides the inmates in the proper care and training of the pit bulls. The dogs receive the training they need to be considered for adoption, and the inmates form valuable connections with their canine charges.
According to the manager of the TAILS program at Jacksonville Bridge Community Release Center;
"These guys are so overprotective of their dogs, they treat them like their own kids. It shows me that regardless of what these guys have gone through, there is a lot of hope for them after release."
Thanks to TAILS, there's also hope for abused, abandoned, and neglected pit bulls all throughout Florida.
All images via Pit Sisters/Facebook
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