Caring for dogs helps heal inmates

Posted at 11:58 PM, Aug 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-11 03:40:55-04

The Alden Correctional Facility has ten new inmates walking the halls.

Black Lab Libby and her nine puppies have made their home inside the jail through the Pups at the Pen program.  Libby was found in a ditch and taken to the SPCA, where she gave birth to her puppies.  Shortly after, they were taken to the Correctional Facility.

The Pups at the Pen program matches female inmates with dogs in need.  The dogs are cared for and trained, so they can be easily adopted.  So far, 17 dogs have gone through the program, and the SPCA has found homes for all of them.

Inmate Christine Altman has worked with the dogs, and is currently working with Libby and her puppies.  She says they had an instant connection.

"We were both in rough shape and now we're not," Altman said.  "We were both in rough shape when we got here."

Altman came to the jail a year and a half ago, after she was charged with grand larceny.  She says she started stealing because of an opiate addiction.  Her story is a familiar one.

"It started with a back surgery," she explained.  "And I started taking prescription pain medication, and it just got out of control.  I was doctor-shopping, I was buying them off the streets, and before I knew it I was stealing to get my fix.

"I was sentenced to two consecutive county years.  And to be honest with you I'm glad I was sentenced to that," she said.  "Because it probably saved my life."

Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard says he hears the same sentiments from other inmates involved in the program.

"A lot of them have said I joined this program to get out of something else, but within days, a window opened.  For the first time it's not all about me.  It's about someone else.  In this case it's about a dog," the Sheriff said.

"We're learning responsibility, how to work together as a team.  It feels good to know somebody needs you," said Altman.  '"Plus it feels good to know that we're finding forever homes for these puppies."

Altman says when she leaves the Correctional Facility, she's hoping to find a job working with animals.  Libby and her puppies will be up for adoption through the Erie County SPCA.  If you'd like to find out more about adoption, you can click here.