SIOUX FALLS, SD -
A select group of prison inmates at the South Dakota State Penitentiary are giving some unruly and unadoptable dogs a second "leash" on life. But the animals aren't the only one's benefiting from their time behind bars.
As puppies surround Kevin Schiele, it's moments like these that make him forget he is at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
"It's like a mother giving you a hug. It's peaceful," Schiele said.
We aren't allowed to say what put him behind bars, but this is the third month Schiele's worked with unruly or unsocialized shelter dogs at the minimum security section of the prison.
"We've had biters, we've got dogs that just want to run and don't want to walk with you. Ordinary dogs with a little bit of problems, that's all," Schiele said.
The Paroled Pup Project is a partnership between the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society and the penitentiary. It teaches the dogs basic obedience commands to increase their adoptability while teaching inmates how to care for, groom and socialize shelter dogs. Scott Archer spends as much as 14 hours a day training dogs.
"It's made it bearable. It's a hard pill to swallow being here," Archer said.
Before he was sentenced to prison, Archer bred and showed miniature pinchers. He admits to learning more from the dogs than he teaches them.
"Patience is absolutely necessary," Archer said. "Positive reinforcement is a way to make change and if it works with them, it's got to work with us."
These dogs get daily walks but other parole pups are in maximum security, like Molly. She's with Gerald Bradford who's serving a life sentence.
"I've been around quite a while and this is one of the best programs I've had in 30 years," Bradford said.
Despite a disability keeping him in a wheelchair, the program has changed everything for the inmate.
"I don't get around like I used to with a chair, but it helps me look forward to something. Sometimes it's not easy to wake up and do that but they do help," Archer said.
Humane Officer Andy Oestreich says the connection is strong because the men understand the dog's situation.
"I think they can relate better to being caged than the average person," Oestreich said.
And while the dogs will leave their life behind bars when they are adopted, the inmates left behind are thankful for the opportunity to make them better pets.
"They've got attitudes just like we do. We needed someone to teach us a way to go, so do they," Schiele said.
The paroled pups stay at the prison until they get adopted, so they don't revert back to bad behavior at the humane society.
If you would like to adopt one of the dogs, you just need to make an appointment. Click here to learn more about the program.
© 2012 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.