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Published: Sunday, 3/20/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Budget cuts end canine training by Toledo inmates

Prison camp, one of 4 to be closed, sends animals back to county pound

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle pets Eve, a retriever mix returned to the pound after a training and obedience class for inmates was ended. Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle pets Eve, a retriever mix returned to the pound after a training and obedience class for inmates was ended.
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Four black dogs and their incarcerated caretakers were among the first in Toledo to feel the impact of cost-saving measures in Gov. John Kasich's proposed two-year state budget.

The dogs belonged to the inaugural class of what was a new canine training and obedience program involving the Lucas County dog warden and the Toledo Correctional Institution.

They were paired with minimum-security inmates at the institution's prison camp, who lived, trained, and played with the former strays so that they might someday be adopted and make good pets.

The ultimate goal was to increase adoptions from the pound and decrease euthanasia.

The dogs left for the prison on Feb. 15 and were scheduled to return to the pound's adoption area in April. There was to be a "graduation" ceremony, and the arrival of a new class of dogs in need of training from the inmates.

But the prison sent the dogs back prematurely last week after the governor unveiled his $55.5 billion plan that would close four state prison camps, including Toledo's. The program is now over, said Dog Warden Julie Lyle, who watched the inmates say goodbye to their four-legged friends.

"It was a sad day," Ms. Lyle said. "I believe there were tears shed."

Jada, a female Labrador, focuses on Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle. Jada was sent back to the dog warden after the Toledo Correctional Institution canceled its dog obedience and training program. Jada, a female Labrador, focuses on Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle. Jada was sent back to the dog warden after the Toledo Correctional Institution canceled its dog obedience and training program.
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Carlo LoParo, communications chief with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, said the Toledo prison camp is relocating its 177 inmates to other minimum-security prisons. Closing the four prison camps is expected to save $6.7 million.

The program could potentially be restarted in the future with the close-security inmates in Toledo Correctional Institution's main facility, but a decision has yet to be made, said Meredith Rinna, assistant to Warden Keith Smith.

Some inmates in the main facility are trainers for Assistance Dogs of America Inc., which provides dogs for the disabled.

The prison camp dogs made remarkable improvement in behavior and temperament despite their curtailed training, Ms. Lyle said.

"They all learned a trick, and they are definitely heads and tails above all the dogs in this facility," Ms. Lyle said at the county pound.

Maj. Gary Parker, the correction institute's chief of security, first suggested the training program to Ms. Lyle after having seen similar dog-inmate initiatives at other prisons.

Major Parker said he believes that the cancelled program, though briefer than planned, was still a success.

"These guys were able to give the dogs around-the-clock care," he said.

Contact JC Reindl at: jcreindl@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.



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