04/19/2012 04:44 pm ET

Florida Inmates Adopt Abandoned Dogs In New Prison Program

Earlier this month, a prison in southern Washington launched the "Cuddly Catz" program, a collaboration with local animal shelters aimed at giving stray cats a second chance by placing them in the temporary care of approved inmates.

Now, a prison in Punta Gorda, Florida has launched a similar program that pairs Humane Society dogs with inmates until the animals can be adopted, United Press International reports.

Shila, Oscar and Toby -- three dogs rescued by the Suncoast Humane Society after being abandoned -- have each been placed into the care of two inmates who have undergone weeks of training in preparation for caring and training their new wards.

"[The dogs] get obedience trained, and they get brought back to good physical health," Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Cameron told WFTX-TV.

He said the program is mutually beneficial: caring for the dogs calms the inmates and allows them to contribute to a greater cause.

"It has a calming effect in the facility, it gives the inmates something very good to give back to society," Cameron said.

Female inmates at Collier County Jail in Naples, Florida have been caring for stray and abandoned dogs since November, when the facility launched the Second Chance Cell Dog Program in collaboration with the Naples Humane Society.

Beth Richards, a staffer at the jail, told WFTX-TV that inmates involved in animal therapy and adoption programs must be thoroughly screened and trained before they can care for dogs.

"Inmates are very well screened. They don't have violent pasts or tendencies. A mental health counselor is also involved with our program daily," Richards told the station.

Jennifer Lehman, an inmate at Collier County jail who was given a boxer puppy in December, told Naples News that the program gave her a new outlook on life.

"Our selfish acts are what brought us to jail," Lehman said. "Loving Maggie made us completely unselfish."

Check out a graduation ceremony for the Naples County jail's Second Chance Cell Dog Program below: