MCLOUD, Okla. – The Oklahoma Department of Corrections conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday for its Serelda Cody Dog Training Facility inside Mabel Bassett Correctional Center.
The event unveiled a 2,982 square-foot kennel that will expand the medium-security prison for women’s Guardian Angels Program. The facility is the result of a thriving statewide collaboration between ODOC and CareerTech.
“The Serelda Cody Dog Training Facility is a product of our incredible partnership with CareerTech and other volunteers,” ODOC Director Joe M. Allbaugh said. “It symbolizes our shared our commitment to return a better individual to society. Quite frankly, we couldn’t do it without them.”
CareerTech instructors worked with the dog program’s inmates to build the kennel, helping them acquire much-needed skills in construction they can use after reentry.
“We were glad to be a small part,” CareerTech Skills Centers Superintendent Greg Dewald said. “If it hadn’t been for the folks at the facility, DOC leadership, and Dr. John Otto with Friends for Folks, we wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”
The nonprofit Friends for Folks, which offers a Guardian Angels-like program at Lexington Correctional Center, also assisted with the facility.
Construction began in 2014. However, construction delays pushed the building’s completion back to this May.
The new building gives trainers a central location to take classes, and learn how to train and groom dogs.
It features 10 indoor/outdoor kennels, a grooming area with equipment, and a washer and dryer to keep bedding and towels clean. It also includes an enclosed exercise yard with agility equipment and a walking path for the handlers and dogs.
The Guardian Angels Program
The Guardian Angels Program, in which 17 inmates participate, works with local animal rescue groups to pair dogs with inmates who train the animals before adoption.
Rescued dogs live with the inmates for several weeks. The inmates train the animals, teach commands and groom them, helping get them ready for adoption into loving homes.
They can also train them for owners that have unique needs, such as a service animal or a home that has elderly residents.
The dogs are spayed or neutered, and receive veterinary care as needed before adoption.
“Programs like this give our inmates hope that they can offer society something of value when they get out,” Allbaugh said. “They also improve security on the yard by giving our inmates something positive to do with their time in prison.”
Since the program began at MBCC in 2014, it has placed 123 dogs. Eleven are in the program today.
The Guardian Angels Program works with Animal Rescue Center in Shawnee, Forever Yours of Oklahoma City, Red Dirt Boxer Rescue of Harrah, and Ok Adopt a Dog of Harrah.
Supporters of the facility and program include Dolese Bros., which donated 7,000 structural blocks for the walls and basic structure of the facility. Others include Harrah Church Basset Hounds, Dr. Rosemarie Strong, Muddy Paws Grooming and Celebrate Recovery.