SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Two dogs rescued near the edge of death more than a month ago have joined the Chatham County Sheriff's Office Operation New Hope program to give them another shot at life.
Charlie and Lola were in such bad condition when they were found on Oct. 3 along U.S. 17 in Bryan County that they had to undergo a series of medical treatments to restore their weight and health. Now they will be trained by jail inmates to hopefully transition them into normal lives.
Recently, Jeffrey Oliver and Jermaine Ladson, Chatham County jail inmates, greeted their new roommates for the first time. The dogs were active and friendly toward their new handlers.
"They help us just as much as we help them," Oliver, 56, said while petting Charlie.
In April, Operation New Hope began as a way to allow low-risk inmates to train six to eight unadoptable dogs at a time from the Humane Society for Greater Savannah, teaching them basic commands and behavior skills. At the conclusion of the four-week program the dogs are typically put up for adoption.
Sgt. Roberts Brooks said the idea came from his wife, Petra, a Liberty County Animal Control volunteer, who told him about similar programs at other sheriff's offices. Brooks said Sheriff Al St Lawrence was receptive to the idea.
"It benefits the inmates by primarily teaching them some responsibility," said Brooks.
The program is funded by the humane society at no cost to taxpayers, he said.
Guinn Friedman, director of operations for the humane society, said the inmates receive training from the humane society and do a good job working with the dogs that live with them 24 hours a day.
"We've been very successful with it," Friedman said.
Only two of the 42 dogs that have completed the program have not been adopted, she said.
When Charlie and Lola were found by Bryan Animal Caregivers members in the same area on separate days, they were nearly 20 pounds underweight and suffered from severe heartworm disease that required weeks of intense treatment. Lola had no teeth and had difficulty eating. Due to suspected strangulation, Charlie was required to have his genitals removed and underwent surgery for an infection.
Their treatment cost about $5,000. The dogs recovered at Cedar Animal Hospital in Richmond Hill.
Bryan Animal Caregivers President Lauren McCraw responded to the case and has followed the dogs' progress.
"Despite everything they've been through — how they look and how they must have been treated by someone — they're very loving and happy dogs and just want a good home," said McCraw.
Ladson, 30, said he never owned a dog before but is confident participating in the program will benefit him as much as either dog.
"It gives me a chance to give back to the community, relaxation and comfort while I'm in my cell, knowing that I'm helping somebody that I don't even know," he said.