Monday, September 11, 2000

Rover Rehab turns strays into pets

Unique program pairs inmates, abandoned dogs

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        WAYNESVILLE — A few animals joined the vegetables and minerals at the Farmer's Market here Saturday.

        Four dogs from the Warren County Rover Rehab program enjoyed the attention of produce shoppers, showing off their best manners in hopes of finding a new home.

        Nine dogs are enrolled in Rover Rehab and six others have recently been matched with new owners.
  • Information about the program is posted at, or by calling the Warren County Correctional Institution: 932-3388, Ext. 2601. Or call the Humane Association of Warren County at 695-1176.
  • The Sept. 16 Stroll for Strays is a 1- to 3-mile walk for dogs and their human buddies. It raises money for the Humane Association's efforts with lost, unwanted and abused animals.
  • The Oct. 28 Fire Hydrant 500 is a 5K run and fitness walk for people only that also supports the work of the Humane Association. Entry forms are available for both events by calling the association.
        “Being here gives them a nice social experience and a change of scene,” said Sharon Anshak, a program staff member.

        For the past several weeks, Doc, Fritz, Ben and Marta have lived in cells at the Warren Correctional Institution near Lebanon. Abandoned as puppies, these young canines are cuddled, coached and trained by inmates in a program that has won kudos from prison officials and animal lovers alike.

        “Since the program started in April 1997, we've had 138 dogs adopted,” said Debbie Hockenbery, president of the county Humane Association, which co-sponsors the effort. “And we've had excellent matches with new owners. The dogs haven't come back to us.”

        Ms. Hockenbery explained that the homeless dogs are evaluated for temperament. Those that pass with tails wagging are assigned to a merit inmate, who in turn has been trained to provide the consistency, love and discipline that will turn the dog from unwanted stray into desirable pet.

        The process has proven a winner for prisoners as well.

        “To qualify to participate, the inmate must have stayed out of trouble for a year,“ Ms. Hockenbery said. “And Rover Rehab provides an incentive for them to stay out of trouble.”

        As many as 32 inmates are involved at any time, Ms. Anshak said. Some serve as critter-sitters when the primary caregivers are busy. The average dog stays at the facility for six weeks and emerges housebroken, trained and sociable.

        The four dogs on display Saturday were a credit to their human mentors. Fritz, a year-old boxer/terrier mix, nuzzled playfully with Marta, a young adult German shepherd mix. Doc responded warmly as children petted him. Ben, a handsome Labrador/Dalmatian courted potential owners.


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