Canine Cellmates: St. Tammany Parish Jail’s new program

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Covington (WGNO) -- The St. Tammany Parish Jail started a new program.  They're training inmates to raise service dogs.  The dogs can help war veterans or anyone who wants to give them a good home.  Reporter Deepak Saini takes you where the pups are behind bars.

Rasha, Rock and Roxie are the newest additions to the St. Tammany Parish Jail.

"We're really giving them basic skills that a person off the street would be looking for when they go in to adopt an animal," says Capt. George Bonnett with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.

Doggone Express partnered with the jail to start the training program.  Inmate Grant Roberts has been working with Rock for a week.

"These dogs were at a kill shelter and they didn't make the choice to be there and it's great they get a second chance and we get a second chance," says Roberts.

Roberts went through weeks of training before working with Rock and it seems to be paying off.  Hopefully it increases Rock's chances of being adopted.  It seems he's already made an impression.

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"You looking for a friend?  You looking for a partner?  So am I," says Steve Longwill.

Longwill is an Iraq war veteran who's looking for a companion.

"It's not so hard to come home to get the money, the compensation, the medical care that you need but the psychological support is often very lacking," says Longwill.

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While the inmates train the dogs, in turn, they're learning some life-changing lessons of their own.

"It's making us think about making choices before we make them and just what not to do, not to come back to this place," says Roberts.

Currently, six inmates are working with the dogs.  The goal is to encourage others.

"Other inmates will see the affect that its having on the ones that are participating and they'll want to participate in it too. That improves behavior in the rest of the jail," says Bonnett.

Rasha, Rock and Roxie will be adopted out in a few weeks.  New dogs will be brought in so they too, can have a second chance.