S.C. inmates are helping rescue animals get adopted

Inmates at Allendale Correctional Institute now know what unconditional love is, thanks to a program that pairs them with rescue animals.


Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) — Inmates at Allendale Correctional Institute now know what unconditional love is, thanks to a program that pairs them with rescue animals. Those in the program train the dogs and raise the cats, all so the animals can be adopted.

The Mutt Mates & Meow Mates program has been at Allendale since 2013. Since it began, more than 500 animals have been trained by inmates.

“Being locked up for almost 27 years, and not having any family members, this is the closest thing I can get to family,” said Scott, an inmate serving a life sentence. He’s also the Program Leader at Allendale. “It’s really rewarding, seeing an animal who has been abused, and doesn’t trust anyone to coming out of their shell and blossom.”

“The animals save their lives, too. They give them a sense of purpose, love and respect, which some of the men that are incarcerated really have never had,” said Bryan Stirling, Director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

There’s one dorm designated for animal care and training, where dogs and cats live with the inmates 24/7. On one side, there are 24 dogs and on the other side are the cats. All the animals come from the Barnwell County Animal Shelter through the nonprofit Animal Advocates of Barnwell County. Animal Advocates pulls adoptable animals from the animal shelter that would otherwise be euthanized.

The dogs stay with their trainers for about two to three months; and the trainers go through a curriculum that includes obedience, agility and socialization training.

“It makes such a difference in them being adoptable,” said Vikki Scott, with Animal Advocates of Barnwell Co.

In order to qualify for Mutt Mates & Meow Mates, participants must apply, go through an interview process, and be in good disciplinary standing.

“Have proven themselves to be of good character,” said Vikki.

Sometimes, a family member of a trainer will adopt one of the animals that’s gone through the program.

“They feel like they’re getting a piece of their father or their brother, and it makes a difference. And then that animal is waiting for them when they are released,” said Vikki.

Inmates say that caring for the animals gives them hope.

“In prison you put up a wall and you can’t really show your true self. And animals have a way of shattering that, breaking down those walls,” said Scott.

The trainers can also graduate from a certified grooming program that helps them get jobs in that field after they are released.

There are similar programs, like Prison Pals at Kershaw Correctional Institution, where inmates become specialized in training therapy dogs.

All the animals in the Mutt Mates & Meow Mates program are adoptable, and for more information on the group or pets you can click here or call (803) 259- LIVE (5483).

Categories: Local News, News, State