At least one local class graduates next week, and rather than caps, tassels and gowns, this ceremony will feature County-issued duds, tails and biscuits.
As in, dog biscuits.
Next Friday, four Peninsula Humane Society shelter dogs will graduate from Transitioning Animals Into Loving Situation (TAILS), a novel program under which the animals are trained by inmates in county jail.
TAILS is a partnership between the Peninsula Humane Society and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. Minimum security inmates at the Maple Street Complex in Redwood City train, socialize and live with shelter dogs for eight weeks under the guidance of Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA staff and volunteers.
Four teams of two inmates have been assigned to the care and training of each dog selected for the program.
Next Friday marks our ninth graduating class since the partnership began 2 ½ years ago.
All dogs have been placed into new homes.
Dogs selected for TAILS are not quite ready for general adoption at PHS’s new Lantos Center in Burlingame. They need extra attention, which they get from inmates in this unique program.
Some arrive in our care severely shy, while others are overly exuberant with no doggie manners and limited exposure to people and other dogs. Once a week for eight consecutive weeks, PHS/SPCA volunteer and local trainer Martina Contreras (owner of A Dog’s Best Friend), gives her time and training skills to teach a group class for inmates and their dogs. At the end of the eight-week program, dogs are ready for new, permanent homes. As one class graduates, another begins.
TAILS is among the programs that make us a true humane society; a classic win-win.
Dogs become more adoptable, while inmate handlers develop new skills that bring meaning to their time spent behind bars.
On the shelter end, TAILS helps PHS/SPCA meet the challenge of giving all dogs special care, attention and training given our animal population and limited number of staff and volunteers available to work with dogs one-on-one. Inmates are essentially doing what staff and volunteers do for dogs at the shelter; they have nothing but time and a love for their “work.”
We often say that the only challenge with TAILS is finding adopters who can provide homes as good as the one dogs have in jail with two handlers who spend most of their waking hours with them, a huge play yard where they romp for hours each day, and a structured obedience class with one of the Peninsula’s top trainers.
Still, we seem to find those homes. Or, I should say that adopters find us. Meet our grads-to-be:
- Daphne, a high-energy, treat motivated and smart a 2-yr-old red female Chihuahua who loves toys, and occasionally guards them from other dogs.
- Canelo, a 6-year-old brown male Chihuahua, was returned to PHS because he was not housetrained and barked at dogs. He’s super food motivated, and can be easily redirected from unwanted behaviors if he’s kept focused on training. He’s a serious jumper, and a goofy, happy guy.
- Milo, a 2 year-old brown male Dachshund/Chihuahua, was surrendered to PHS last May by owners who could no longer care for him. A sweet boy who was showing signs of stress in his kennel made Milo an ideal TAILS candidate. Getting used to his collar and leash, both of which were totally foreign to him seven weeks ago.
- Mickey, a 1 ½ year-old tan male Terrier/Chihuahua, surrendered to PHS in March because his owners were moving. A super high-energy dog, Mickey benefits greatly from daily exercise. He loves toys, and can guard them from other dogs and people. He’s the teacher’s pet!