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FAIRFAX--The Allendale Correctional Institution (ACI) MuttMates animal rescue program played host to 18 dogs during the week of Christmas, who otherwise would have been destined to spend Christmas in the Friends for Life Center, owned and operated by The Animal Advocates and located in Barnwell. The animal hospitality also provided a much-needed break for the staff and volunteers there.

The Character-based Housing Unit (CHU) was transformed to a “canine nation” as Warden John R. Pate allowed 13 extra dogs to blend into the five-dog established dog-rescue program. In all 18 dogs were in the unit from December 23 through 30. Santa arrived with the dogs that were dressed for the holidays. During the week, the animals were also available to any inmate at ACI who would like to have a picture taken with them through the IRC fundraising efforts.

“The MeowMate/MuttMate Program with the ACI inmates is truly a win/win for all concerned,” said Vikki Scott, president of the organization. “When I visited ACI midway through the week, it was heartwarming to see the tails wagging and the residents smiling. Our staff and volunteers appreciated the opportunity to spend more time with their families, too.”

The Animal Advocates and Allendale Correctional Institution have teamed up to create a program where carefully chosen residents in the CHU are paired with a dog or cat from the shelter. In addition to providing basic love and attention, the handlers help socialize the animals. They interact with everyone in the unit, and they get to play with other animals to learn skills needed to make them more adoptable. Residents teach the dogs basic commands such as sit, stay, come, stop, lay, etc. The dogs and cats live in the cells with the residents, so they quickly become house trained, which again makes them more adoptable.

Warden Pate noted that the program has been a success in the past seven months, with several dogs and cats being adopted by ACI volunteers and staff.

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