Pawsitive Change program rehabs dogs, inmates

Has expanded to a total of four local prisons
Posted at 5:38 PM, Aug 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 20:38:41-04

A unique prison program that started in California City has now expanded to a total of four local prisons.

"Pawsitive Change", a volunteer-based prison program that pairs inmates with rescued dogs over a 14-week period, is now operational at North Kern State Prison and Wasco State Prison, in addition to previously established programs at California City Correctional Facility and Corcoran State Prison.

"We're in here to train these guys to be dog trainers," said Zach Skow, founder and executive director of Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue. "So that when the get out of prison, they have a viable vocational option, and that is to become dog trainers, dog walkers, and work within the pet services industry."

Inmates who have gone through the Cal City program had nothing but good things to say on Tuesday.

"Ever since I joined the program, it's been like a peace of mind, it took a big burden off of me," said Jamal Henderson, who's been incarcerated for over 16 years and has graduated from the Pawsitive Change program. He's remained on as a mentor to other inmates in the program. "To be honest with you, it was like a calling, you know?"

"It's been so long since I even pet a dog," said Daniel Robinson, another program mentor who's been incarcerated for 11 years. "So it kind of like reconnects you with nature."

Multiple inmates also expressed interest in continuing to work with dogs once they were released from prison (since Cal City is a "level two" facility, all inmates housed there have a chance to be released at some point).

The dogs in the program are all rescues; most come from Kern County shelters, but some are rescued from as far away as international slaughter houses. By the end of the program, the dogs are able to be adopted through Marley's Mutts.

The program at Cal City is completely volunteer-based and relies on donations; if you'd like to contribute to Marley's Mutts and their programs, you can find more information here.