Perry, Florida- August 21, 2012
When life gets you down, it's not always people who help you get back up.
Sometimes it can be man's best friend.
"I have something to do in my life and take care of something, so it helps me," said Russell Sah, an inmate at the Taylor Work Camp.
The men at Taylor Work Camp in Perry are a part of a dog training program called UTOPIA - The Undergoing Training & Obedience in Prison to Increase Adoptability.
The men get chosen after an application process, then they train the dogs from Tallahassee's Animal Services Center.
Lastly, the dogs are put up for adoption.
"It's a bond that you don't really want to establish because you know [the dog] is leaving but it brings out a lot of feelings you try to block out while you're in here," said inmate Scott Hill.
Angel Roman is from Puerto Rico and knew very little English coming into the facility. Now, the dogs, like Billy, have helped him with speech and life.
"I hope somebody adopts this dog because this dog is a really smart dog and really good dog," he said.
The dogs keep the inmates good company, when times may get lonely.
"This program gives me another chance so when I go home I'll try to work with other dogs."
It's an eight to ten week program and dogs are chosen because they display behaviors that cause them not to get adopted.
Prison officials reached out to Jay King's Dog Academy to train the inmates. They've been doing so here for five years.
Taylor was the pilot facility.
"Without the shelter, without the correctional and without the inmates, this program is nothing," said Jay King.
UTOPIA has helped rehabilitate the lives of prisoners and pets, in addition to creating lasting friendships. The UTOPIA adoption fee is $150.00. Services included in the adoption fee are: Behavioral assessment, health assessment, rabies vaccine, tag and certificate, other vaccinations appropriate for age, sterilization surgery, AVID microchip, Heartworm testing for dogs 6 months and older and basic obedience training. All are spayed/neutered unless otherwise noted.
For more information call 850-891-2950 or go to http://www.talgov.com/animals/utopia.cfm