Inmates graduate alongside the puppies they trained at Long Island jail

YAPHANK, New York (WABC) -- Six puppies and their trainers have officially graduated from a special program at a jail on Long Island that helps both inmates and the dogs they train.

The graduation ceremony was held Monday afternoon at the Yaphank Correctional Facility.

"Pawsitive Second Chances" is a program where puppies are brought into the jail and trained by the inmates to learn basic obedience.

While the puppies are exposed and socialized to different sights, sounds and smells, the inmates get an opportunity to nurture the dogs.

The dogs come from shelters with high kill rates, many of them in the South. The inmates work with them for two hours every Friday night. And after two months, they're ready to graduate.

Officials say the training program enhances a shelter dog's adoptability, while at the same time, the inmates' eyes are opened to a world of training and options for life outside of prison.

County Sheriff Errol Toulon says the inmates may get even more out of it than the dogs they're training.

"Sometimes it's just that one little thing that just transforms and put someone over the top, to realize that they can achieve something," Toulon said.

For Sophia Kwintner, prison life was an eye-opener. A place where the days are long, and inmates often feel abandoned by their own families. That is why her weekly visits with a puppy named Paris are life-changing.

"You don't have your family. And that's one of the big things here so having this therapeutic session with puppies and having this is really what brings it together here, you know, having this little cute loving animal. It really helps you here," Kwintner said.

After the puppies graduate from training, they are available for adoption through Save-a-Pet Rescue, Inc., a no-kill animal shelter in Port Jefferson Station.

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