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Canine CellMates, Best Friends Animal Society Pair Shelter Dogs with Inmates


Press release: Best Friends Animal Society

Canine CellMates (CCM) recently opened its doors to a new building this month in collaboration with Best Friends Animal Society. The building, which is located in Cobb County, will allow CCM to further its rehabilitative programs that utilize shelter dogs to change the lives of incarcerated men in Atlanta.

“We’re thrilled to announce Canine CellMates finally has a permanent home,” said Susan Jacobs-Meadows, founder and executive director of Canine CellMates. “This building will help us bring about change to break the cycle of incarceration, and in turn help more animals and improve the community.”

CCM began in 2013 working with the Fulton County Jail to provide a better life for both inmates and rescued shelter dogs. The program is an intensive 10-week course, where carefully selected participants are assigned the responsibility of taking care of selected shelter dogs, with the goal of preparing them for adoption. In addition, the inmates are taught valuable workforce and social-emotional skills to help them break the cycle of recidivism. To date, more than 400 inmates have participated in CCM program, and more than 150 dogs have been adopted into forever homes.

“The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office actively supports the successful reentry of citizens into the community, reducing their chances of recidivism,” said Fulton County Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat. “We congratulate the Canine CellMates Program on their new facility and look forward to continuing our partnership of granting life-changing opportunities for inmates to rehabilitate rescue dogs while also developing critical life skills to chart their own new paths toward positive, productive lives.”

The new building is made possible by a grant from Best Friends Animal Society which will allow CCM to double the number of men they can reach and dogs they can save. It was previously occupied by Best Friends in Atlanta, who transitioned out of it during the pandemic into a foster-based remote lifesaving model.

“We are excited to provide a grant to Canine CellMates to lease our former building to continue their important work of rehabilitating incarcerated men using the life-changing power of shelter dogs,” said Fraily Rodriguez, director of lifesaving centers – East, Best Friends Animal Society. “We were moved by their mission because we also believe in the healing power of dogs. We are proud to continue to work collaboratively with Atlanta-area organizations like CCM to save the lives of shelter pets both in the Atlanta area and all across the country.”

In August, CCM will launch Beyond the Bars program, which will be one of the first ever pre-trial diversion programs in the country that centers around shelter dogs. Working in partnership with the district attorney’s office, they will carefully select eligible participants to complete a 90-day training program at their building pre-indictment.rsz_1971433_594540120580930_850454430_n

“Canine CellMates is the type of innovative program that benefits our community in so many ways,” said Fani T. Willis, district attorney Fulton County, Georgia. “It makes Fulton County safer by teaching participants the life skills they need to stay out of the criminal justice system. That benefits all of us because it helps them become productive citizens, and they are much less likely to commit crimes again.”

In addition to being a headquarters location for CCM, and the home of the new Beyond the Bars program, this building will serve as a resource for the current and past participants of the CCM program, and house 12-step meetings, classes and workshops, and job fairs. It will also allow CCM to house dogs from their program that are waiting for their forever homes.

Now, more than ever, with overcrowding jails and the lack of supportive services for inmates, repeat arrest cycles will continue without rehabilitation services like CCM. Rehabilitation is about putting an end to the cycle of recidivism that will otherwise continue to place the burden back on the corrections system and on American taxpayers.

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 347,000. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs all across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary. Working collaboratively with a network of more than 3,300 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All.

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