Press Release

Jun 20, 2016

Inmates and Dogs Working Together


Inmates and dogs benefit from working together –

By Sloane M. Perron Correspondent

Quaboag Current

WEST BOYLSTON – On June 10, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the one-year anniversary of Project Good Dog, a program that allows inmates in the work release facility to train shelter dogs with behavioral issues and find the animals their“forever homes” Project Good Dog began when the Second Chance Animal Shelter in East Brookfield approached the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction with an idea that would benefit both the shelter dogs and the inmates.

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis spoke about the positive impact that Project Good Dog has had, not only on the inmates who train the dogs, but on the facility as a whole. He said that the dogs have reduced stress for inmates and staff ,which improves the level of safety at the prison, “The dogs have almost become the pets of the entire block,” he said. During the first year of the program, 20 dogs have been in the workrelease facility and then been adopted. Eight of these dogs were even adopted by staff at the prison. Currently, inmates are working on training three new dogs as they teach them behaviors and manners that will make them adoptable. “Public safety, that is what this program is all about,” said Evangelidis. “Our job is that people leaving our facility are less likely to commit a crime then when they got here.” He recalled a time in the past when someone asked about rehabilitating inmates, to which the Sheriff answered, “I don’t care if they find God, or a dog.” Since Second Chance Animal Shelter has partnered with the work-release facility, it is clear that for some inmates, having a purpose by training dogs and having the unconditional love of a pet has greatly improved their lives. This program does not cost the taxpayers any money, although donations to Second Chance Animal Shelter are always appreciated in order to cover costs. “We were able to find a wonderful, wonderful partner for this program,” Evangelidis said.

Lindsay Doray from Second Chance Animal Shelter described the types of dogs that enter Project Good Dog. “We’ve got a lot of dogs that are crazy and have no manners or are scared to death,” she said. This is exemplified by Jenna, a dog who was rescued from a dog meat facility in South Korea. Because Jenna spent her entire life in a small cage, her paws are splayed out, and she has never been on a leash, been socialized with other dogs or been trained. Second Chance trains the inmates how to teach these shelter dogs and in turn, the inmates are able to provide the dogs with attentive, round-the-clock care and training. Doray said she was very grateful for the partnership between Second Chance Animal Shelter and the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, “These dogs would not be here without your help and we appreciate that,” she said.

During the ceremony Evangelidis presented Doray with a citation and a donation of creates and dogs beds made on behalf of Ellie’s Pet Barn. Along with staff from the prison and animal shelter, pet owners who adopted dogs after they went through Project Good Dog were also present. Jamie Lubelczyk adopted her dog Lucy about a year ago. Lucy was one of the first dogs to go through the program. From the time she born and until she was four, Lucy lived in a crate. As a result, she had no interaction with other dogs, other then her brother, or the outside world. Lubelczyk was interested in adopting Lucy, but was worried that her home renovations at the time would postpone the adoption. Instead, she was told by a staff member at the shelter, “Don’t worry, she’s in jail.” Originally Lucy was a scared dog with little energy. “She’s a little bit of a princess now, she thinks it all about her,” she joked, adding that Lucy “got kicked out early” after six of the eight weeks because she was getting too attached to her handler, Bob. Lubelczyk supports Project Good Dog, “I think it made a whole difference for her [Lucy].” John and Annmarie Lapierre adopted their 1- year-old Australian sheep mix Walter on March 31, and he works at the prison and is one of the staff members who donated a pet from Project Good Dog. As a result, Lapierre has seen the benefits of the program first-hand as both a staff member of 15 years and a pet owner. “The day he came in, I fell in love with him,” he said. Walter loves the Lapierre’s two daughters and cat. “He wants to be a friend with everyone,” he said. Lapierre saw Walter on a regular basis as he worked which helped the transition during adoption. According to Lapierre, the transformation the Project Good Dog has on inmates is like “night and day. It gives them a sense of pride, a sense of meaning.” Twenty-six inmates have participated in Project Good Dog since the program began a year ago. Roger Holm recently began training his first shelter dog, Walker, a 10- month-old redbone coonhound. After 34 months in jail, Holm was eager to be transferred to the work-release facility and join the Good Dog Project. He has been training Walker for five weeks and says he is a, “He’s a very good dog, well tempered,” he said of Walker, who he has been training for five weeks. “Patience, I’ve definitely learned patience, and giving back,” Holm said of the Good Dog Project. Holm will miss his pal Walker when he is adopted. Every morning at 5 a.m., Walker jumps into Holm’s bed to sleep next to him. Holm talked about his bond with Walker, “To me, dogs mean family. Without a dog, my family was not complete.”

Jun 15, 2016

Shelter dogs and inmates rescue one another at Worcester Co. Jail

(Western Mass News photo)

Posted: Jun 10, 2016 2:32 PM EDT Updated: Jun 10, 2016 3:16 PM EDT


Richard Velazquez holds a stack of photos each one shows the face of a happy dog.

“That’s Erica, That’s Erica right there,” Velazquez said.

Velazquez has taught a lot of dogs some new tricks.

“Paw….sit…good boy Walker, good boy,” Velazquez added.

Velazquez isn’t just a dog trainer.  He is also an inmate at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction and works with animals from the Second Chance Animal Shelter.

The shelter started the Project Good Dog program one year ago to help socialize and train some of their dogs.

“The dogs have no obedience and no manners and they don’t show very well in the kennel so they sit there for a while. So that ties up the kennel for another dog,” said Lindsay Doray with Second Chance Animal Shelter.

Doray noted that many of these dogs have never seen grass, never worn a leash, and haven’t received the attention from an owner or trainer.

“Others need to be taught the basics like sit, paw, roll over just to get them ready to be adopted,” Valazquez explained.

The program has graduated 23 dogs from the program.

Recently Jenna, a dog who was rescued from a Korean meat farm was brought to the prison.  Jenna along with four other dogs were sent to Second Chance after spending their lives living in wire cages with little love and attention.

“I put her in the cage I lay next to her and soothe her and talk to her and you might consider it crazy but it works for the dog but they get to bond with me more,” Valazquez said.

The dogs sleep in kennels in the inmate’s rooms. The handlers take care of the dogs from feeding them, to bathing them.

“This opportunity opened my eyes up to a lot of things that I took for granted with my family you know,” Valazquez noted.

Velazquez is coming to the end of serving a two and a half year sentence.

“The impact on my life is it’s about being responsible now. I have 4 daughters and being caught up in bad decisions kind of made me miss a lot of them growing up,” Valazquez said.

Read more:

Jun 15, 2016

Welcome back! Dogs visit inmate trainers

6/11/2016 7:40:00 AM

Jail program to socialize misfit dogs marks 1 year

News staff photo by Damien Fisher Inmate Richard Velazquez greets Walter, one of the dogs he rehabilitated.
+ click to enlarge
News staff photo by Damien Fisher Inmate Richard Velazquez greets Walter, one of the dogs he rehabilitated.

Damien Fisher
News Staff Writer – The Gardner News

WEST BOYLSTON — It was a class reunion of sorts at the Worcester County Jail on Friday, with the furry graduates from Project Good Dog coming back to see their old teachers.

Project Good Dog pairs up jail inmates with shelter dogs from the Second Chance Animal Shelter in East Brookfield. The dogs that get sent into the program are considered tough to adopt because of behavior issues.

The inmate spend up to 17 weeks working with the dogs, training them and getting them ready to be adopted.

“It’s been more of a success than I thought it would have been,” said Hilary Malloy, the staff member overseeing the program.

Project Good Dog has graduated and adopted out more than 20 dogs, with the inmates taking the problem dogs and training them into family pets.

The program has also been a boon for the inmates, said Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

Training the dogs gives the men a sense of purpose, a schedule, and the knowledge that they can do good for the community.

“There’s been an incredible transformation in our inmates,” he said.

On Friday, Evangelidis celebrated the first year of the program, which has seen enormous success for the shelter, the inmates and the whole jail.

The dogs come to the jail with a variety of issues, said Lindsay Doray, the adoption center manager with Second Chances.

“We have a lot of dogs come in who are crazy and have no manners, or who are scared to death,” Doray said.

These dogs would sit in the shelter for months without Project Good Dog, waiting for someone to take a chance on them.

Second Chance is a no-kill animal shelter, and needs the space to rescue as many dogs as it can, Doray said.

Without the inmates, the shelter would not be able to help as many dogs as it does.

Second Chance trains the inmates to become dog handlers, and the inmates then spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week working with the dogs.

Being with the dogs gives the inmates something to care about, and gives them a different perspective on their own lives, said inmate Roger Holm.

“You feel more civilized over here, and less like a criminal,” Holm said.

Corrections Officer Mark Lapierre said that the special unit for the dog handlers is vastly different from the rest of the jail.

The tension has gone down, and there is a sense of compassion and camaraderie among the jail staff and the inmates, all thanks to the dogs.

Evangelidis said he knew the program would work, but he didn’t know how extensive the benefits would be.

“The surprise to me has been the impact it’s had on the jail itself,” Evangelidis said.

The inmates and jail staff are not the only ones getting a positive experience.

The dogs that graduate from Project Good Dog all get adopted.

Remy, a Labrador, was adopted by Cathy Pelitier last year.

Remy went from having behavior problems to being a great family dog, she said.

Pelitier is one of the many jail staff remembers who adopted one of the Project Good Dog pets.

“He’s a love,” she said.

“He brings more joy to my family than anything.”

The work continues, with more dogs getting their second chance at the jail.

Recently, the inmates took in Jenna, a dog rescued from a meat farm in Korea.

Jenna is learning how to walk after living most of her life in small a chicken wire pen.

Evangelidis said that the program is a vital part of the jail’s public safety mission.

The dogs have made the jail safer for the inmates and the staff, while giving the inmates a real way to give back to the community.

The project will make the inmates less likely to reoffend, and less likely to end up back in jail, he said.

“I have always believed that dogs can help inmates rehabilitate themselves,” Evangelidis said.



Jun 15, 2016

Celebration marks 1st anniversary of jail dog training program

Inmate Richard Velazquez stands with a current pup in training, Jenna, who was rescued from a Korean meat farm, during the Project Good Dog celebration at the Worcester County Jail & House of Correction on Friday. T&G Staff/Christine Hochkeppel
Worcester Telegram
By Christian Yapor Correspondent

Posted Jun. 10, 2016 at 6:04 PM
Updated Jun 10, 2016 at 10:55 PM

WEST BOYLSTON – On Friday, Richard Velazquez, an inmate at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, expected visitors to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a program that changed his life. As he knelt down to greet his guests, they wagged their tails and licked his face.

Project Good Dog, a program launched in April 2015, is a partnership between the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and the Second Chance Animal Shelter. In the program, needy shelter dogs were paired with inmates who provided the dogs with full-time care and training.

“The Second Chance Animal Shelter brings these dogs to us, and they train our inmates to work with these dog within an eight to 12 week program for free,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

Sheriff Evangelidis said 23 dogs have participated in the program, 20 have been adopted, and eight have been adopted by staff.

These dogs have come from various walks of life, including negligent homes, transfers from other shelters, and surrenders. A few, like Jenna, one of their newest dogs in the program were even rescued from Korean meat farms, where they would have been slaughtered for human consumption.

“When they have those dogs, what we have noticed is that in the entire block, the stress level has dropped,” Sheriff Evangelidis said. “We create compassionate people, and it has made the officers feel much safer working in this environment.”

“The guys (inmates) have attitudes,” said Mr. Velazquez, an inmate for the last 20 years. “But when the dogs are there, they forget about that, because they just want to have fun with the dogs, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Because inmates and shelter representatives work together to train the dogs in this facility, the shelter is able to get the dogs adopted more quickly.

“This program means a lot to these dogs because it gives them an opportunity to be adopted much faster,” said Lindsay Doray, Adoption Center Manager at the Second Chance Animal Shelter. “We get a lot of dogs that are either crazy and have no manners, or they come in and they are scared to death, they have never had the interaction they are able to get up here.”

Just before the dogs are about to graduate from the program, the shelter posts them online so by the time they make it back from the jail to the shelter, they have a home lined up.

Marc Lajoie, of Spencer, adopted Hershey, a graduate of the program. “You can tell from what an affectionate dog he is, that he had a great home when he was here,” Mr. Lajoie said.

“He came to us as a very happy, very friendly dog, not an aggressive bone in his body.”

Bill and Kathleen Carlson, of Southwick, adopted Brewzer last October. “With the Good Dog Program, he was all set, it was like an ‘out of the box dog,’ he knew how to do basic things already,” Mr. Carlson said.

“When the dogs go into a good home, I feel better,” Mr. Velazquez said.

At the end of the ceremony, Sheriff Evangelidis presented the Second Chance Animal Shelter with an official citation from the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department.

“In recognition of the one-year anniversary of Project Good Dog; helping shelter pets live better lives while helping incarcerated individuals turn their lives around,” the sheriff said. “When an inmate leaves here and is less likely to offend, we all win.”