Across the country, thousands of inmates are serving time in minimum-security prisons and millions of dogs are residing in animal shelters.
Many of these dogs lack training and socialization, making them less likely to be adopted — and more likely to be euthanized — yet prison dog-training programs seek to rehabilitate both inmates and shelter dogs by pairing them up.
The new documentary "Dogs on the Inside" takes a look at one such program at North Central Correctional Institution in Gardiner, Massachusetts, and reveals how the partnership between pup and prisoner can give both parties a new lease on life.
The Don't Throw Us Away program pairs inmates with abused and neglected dogs from shelters that euthanize dogs. The teams live and work together, and the inmates teach the dogs basic obedience to prepare them for adoption.
"Dogs on the Inside" follows a group of dogs from a shelter to the prison, where they're introduced to the men who will prepare them for better lives in a forever home.
If the dogs pass an obedience test at the conclusion of the eight-week program, a graduation ceremony is held that both the prisoners and the dogs' adoptive families attend.
Although the training program is intended to rehabilitate the dogs, through interviews with participating inmates, the film reveals that Don't Throw Us Away changes prisoners’ lives as well.
"The very first dog that I had, his name was Sam. He was very afraid when he came and he wouldn't even come out of his cage. It took a lot of time, but it happened. He's a different dog. He's happy," said Candido Santiago, one of the inmate dog handlers.
"I think, in a sense, he forgot his past. He's a dog that has gone through so much and has changed drastically, and I know that by seeing that through Sam, nothing's impossible."
Below, watch an exclusive clip from "Dogs on the Inside." The film will be available Feb. 10 on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU and dogsontheinside.com.
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