Louisiana Prisoners Rescue Katrina Dogs and Build Shelters

It always amazes me to see the healing power of dogs! Thanks to NOLA.com for this good news! Prison dogs get new leash on life...


It always amazes me to see the healing power of dogs!

Thanks to NOLA.com for this good news!

Prison dogs get new leash on life

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) When Warden Jimmy LeBlanc decided to take in some of the animals rescued after Hurricane Katrina he knew it would help the animals.

He also found it helped the prisoners he oversees at the Dixon Correctional Institution.

“It certainly brought out the humanitarianism in us,” inmate Douglas Blank said. “We are like dogs in a sense: caged up. The dogs bonded with us, and we bonded with the dogs.”

The American Humane Society is in the final stages of releasing a $600,000 grant to build a permanent and emergency evacuation shelter on the prison grounds. Just before the new year, Gov. Kathleen Blanco issued an executive order allowing the prison to stretch the grant dollars by using inmate labor to build the shelters.

LeBlanc said it is a task his prison population will enjoy.

“It is hard to describe, but there was a feeling the inmates have when they are around the animals,” LeBlanc said. “I guess it is the unconditional love. I saw things I had never seen before in a prison.”

Most of the dogs sent to the prison were pit bulls.

“I saw an inmate calm a ferocious pit bull into a dog that was like a warm, little puppy,” LeBlanc said. “There was a complete dedication to helping these animals survive. I guess they could relate to the struggle.”

Blank, 30, serving a sentence for a firearms violation, said it was an uplifting experience.

“When the dogs would come off the trucks, they were scared, tired and hungry,” said Blank, who is from Jennings. “We watched them grow mentally, spiritually and physically.”

When one particular dog arrived, “You couldn’t even put food in the cage without her snarling at you. By the time she left, she was laying in my lap, licking my face. It was really great. It really touched me,” Blank said.

Most of the animals were claimed by owners from Internet postings.

“There was one tiny poodle who was very playful,” Blank said. “It was a home pet, you could tell. After a month, a little old lady, in her late 70s or early 80s, came to get her. She was in tears. You could tell this was her child.

“She was afraid the dog wouldn’t recognize her. But when she came in, the dog came over and jumped on her.”

The new shelters will be a cooperative endeavor among the prison, the LSU Vet School and the state Department of Agriculture.

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