As this year’s Fourth of July drew closer, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey was getting a lot of requests from residents who wished to help out at the local animal shelter, where the dogs often get scared and anxious during fireworks displays and other loud celebratory noises.
But the volunteers’ generosity gave him another idea: Allow inmates from the county jail the chance to comfort the homeless dogs instead.
“While we greatly appreciate the offer of assistance and truly love the fact that our community partners with us to help our homeless pets, our agency has designed a new program that will not only help our dogs but will also help add purpose to the lives of inmates incarcerated at the Brevard County Jail,” Ivey explained in a June 29 Facebook post.
The inmates will read to the dogs, play with them and feed them treats during the loudest hours on Thursday.
“Our goal is to not only help calm the dogs but also to help build and instill a sense of purpose and compassion in the inmates that will hopefully aid them as they transition back into society once the have served their time,” Ivey wrote.
The sheriff’s program mirrors a larger one seen at some Florida prisons called TAILS ― Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills ― in which inmates are recruited to train shelter dogs in order to improve their chances at finding forever homes.
Their help is certainly needed. The American Kennel Club says that more dogs run away from home on July 4 and July 5 than any other time of year, and those pets who stay home are also at risk of hurting themselves out of panic.
Frightened dogs should be placed in a safe, quiet area, and often do well with a favorite human or two. One 2013 study showed that dogs ― like human babies ― are less anxious when they encounter something scary if their owner is with them, Scientific American notes. And there’s no need to worry about reinforcing pets’ anxiety by giving them attention when they’re scared, according to The New York Times.
“You won’t make the fear worse. Do what you need to do to help your dog,” University of California, Davis associate professor Melissa Bain told the outlet in 2016.