Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 67 – Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter

Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter

Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter

Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter started with a dream of former Onondaga County Executive, Joanie Mahoney. Over five years ago, former County Executive Mahoney began the process of working on a large project that would bring together inmates and homeless dogs. She configured a team of community leaders that would help see this vision come to light. The brilliant idea of pairing up inmates with shelter dogs was a sure way to give second chances to both the inmates and the dogs! Upon the end of the dog’s training, they are placed up for adoption. Since opening in 2015, over 400 dogs have been adopted and 140 inmates have gone through the program!

Kimberly Smith-Ford, the current Board President has been in the animal rescue world for the past 15 years. Before Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter she was on the board for another local rescue and the Director of Education for their local SPCA.



“Welcome to the Animal Shelter of the Week podcast, where we feature outstanding organizations from around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is proudly sponsored by Doobert connects animal shelters with volunteers to do animal transport and fostering. Learn more and sign up for free at Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

 Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter started out as a dream. Over five years ago, former county executive, Mi Honey began the process of working on a large project that would bring together inmates and homeless dogs. She configured a team of community leaders that would help see the vision come to light. The brilliant idea of pairing up inmates with shelter dogs was a sure way to give a second chance to both the inmates and the dogs. Upon the end of the dogs training, they’re placed for adoption. Since opening in 2015 over 400 dogs have been adopted and 140 inmates have gone through the program.

 Hi, Kimberly. Welcome to the show. Hi. Thank you for having me. Of course, you’re the first other Kimberly that I’ve had on my show here, so I’m kind of excited about that. Oh, really? That is special. Yeah. I haven’t had somebody that has the same name as me on our show, so I think that that’s awesome. Alrighty. So you are the Board President over at the Second Chance Canine Adoption Center in New York. Is that right? Correct. Perfect. So can you just fill us in a little bit about what you do and just overall a little insight into your organization? So Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter started with a dream of our former,  another county executive, Joanie Mahoney. And she looked at two issues that we had in this county, one overpopulation of dogs in our city shelter as well as overpopulation of inmates in our correctional facilities. And she thought you know, how could we take this problem and try to find a solution? And she came up with this great idea of pairing inmates with homeless dogs. So it gives them a purpose while they are incarcerated and they’re paired with dogs from local city shelters. So we have actually our own shelter. It’s right on the correctional facility property. We pull our dogs from the city of Syracuse. And they’re all local dogs, to help with the overcrowding, to help reduce the euthanasia rate. And then the inmates from the Jamesville Correctional Facility are paired with these dogs. And they are responsible for the daily care, cleaning, feeding, training, and exercise. They are their go-to care person daily, for these dogs. So it’s teaching the inmates responsibility, compassion. It’s giving them a purpose while they are there, you know, something to look forward to, something to do while they are incarcerated. And the goal is when they’re released because they will be released back into our community, that they will utilize the skills that they’ve learned and be productive citizens back into society. And then we adopt the dogs out.

 Okay. Wow. I mean, that is definitely an interesting program. And definitely an interesting set up how you guys have it. So how many dogs and inmates actually go into this specific program? Is this something that you have an inmate for all of the dogs you take in or just some of them? And then the others stay in the facility with you guys? So we have 20 kennels total. We never fill the kennels completely. On average you usually have about 12 to 15 dogs and about four inmates enrolled in the program one time. So the inmates are usually assigned more than one dog to care for. And then when an inmate is, you know, released, another inmate will enroll into the program and come down. And when dogs get adopted, we continue to pull dogs from the city shelter. So it’s almost like those inmates are kind of working as your volunteers, so to speak. Is that right? Yes, absolutely. So they work in two shifts, they’re there daily from 7:30 to 2. They come back down, they’re there 4 to 8. So the only time these dogs are really alone is overnight. So our dogs are very well socialized. And the great thing is to see the bond that these inmates make with these dogs and the connection that they have with them and how these dogs really help them to heal. Because, you know, these dogs don’t know that these inmates are in prison. They don’t know that they’ve made mistakes in their lives. You know, they don’t judge these inmates and the inmates don’t judge the dogs, they can relate to one another. And it’s a really great bond to see. I am definitely liking this program and the fact that it’s your sole goal on this, is actually really intriguing. It’s a very unique program, it’s been very successful. We’re just coming up on five years, this October and we’ve adopted out over 400 dogs and we’ve had about 140 inmates go through the program so far. Nice.

 So how long do you guys usually keep the dogs and the inmates in, like a specific program? Do you guys have, like, a certain time frame? So the dogs are with us until they are adopted. The inmates are with us until either they’re released or they express that they just don’t want to be in the program anymore. It is completely voluntary. We usually never have that happen. They are usually with us until they are released. They really say how you know it gives them a purpose. Every day when they wake up and they look forward to coming down, getting out of the correctional facility, being in the dog shelter and just being able to hang with the dogs. It’s really therapeutic for them. Yeah, definitely. I mean, who wouldn’t want to escape and play with dogs all day? Yes. We have a Certified trainer onboard, so she is responsible, she comes up, she trains the inmates. Well, she trains the dogs. She works with the inmates and shows them how to train the dogs. So they actually leave with a Certificate of Completion for training and behavior, once they complete the program. So that’s something else that they can use when they leave, you know, and to try to find a job, once they’re released. Oh, perfect. You just keep going and you keep giving these great things that you guys are doing. I love it. You guys are really not just the typical animal welfare organization. You guys definitely have a lot more to you. And you’re helping out others. And not just the animals or the potential adopters down the way. You guys are truly making a difference. I’m really loving this. Well, thank you. I mean, that’s our goal. Focus on using rescue dogs to help the inmates, in return, the inmates are helping the rescue dogs and it’s just a big win-win situation. We’ve actually had a couple of inmates that have adopted the dogs that they fell in love with. So when they were released, they came back with their families and they adopted the dogs that they were treating cause they just fell in love with them. How awesome is that that they’re able to do that? I mean, you see that the dog is probably used to the inmate and, you know, now that inmate can take them home. They’ve been training them for however long they have been there. I mean, that really is a win-win right there. Absolutely. It’s a great program to be able to be a part of, but also just to see it and see how it works. You know, we’ve had inmates request to have pictures of the dogs that they’re working with so they can bring them back to their jail cell and hang them up. I mean, it’s just a great, great overall program. I agree.

So, Kimberly, share with me a little bit about your community. So we’re located in Jamesville, New York. That’s about four hours north of New York City, and we our area, a very large backyard breeding problem. Meaning people are just breeding dogs and selling them just to make a profit. And the majority of dogs that are bred in the backyards here are some type of Pitbull or Bully-mix which, unfortunately, have a very bad reputation, that they do not deserve. So we see our city shelter here overrun with those types of dogs, and we certainly don’t discriminate on the types of dogs, and we pull. They all deserve a second chance. 

So the way it works is our trainer actually goes to the city shelter and she will temperament test and evaluate dogs when we have space. And if they pass the temperament test and are a good fit for the program, they get all of their vetting completed, and then they’re transported up to our shelter at Second Chance. Okay, that’s very interesting and I like that you guys don’t discriminate against the breeds. I’m totally with you guys. There are a lot of the bully breeds. They do get a bad rap. And so the fact that you guys are still willing to take them in and you know, put them to your program. And essentially they are getting trained through your program. So what a better way to get them prepared for potentially being adopted. So I think you guys have a very great system going over there for sure. Yes, absolutely. And I mean, we take in all types of dogs. But as far as our community, you know each community is different. And sometimes the further south you go, you see an overflow of like hound dogs. In this specific area, it’s an overflow of like a bully breed.

 But we get all types of dogs that come through the city shelter. So they come in either as strays, owner turn-ins, cruelty cases from the city go to the city shelter. So there’s a variety of reasons why they end up in our Syracuse City shelter and how they get there. But those are the dogs that we pull because that’s part of our mission is to help with the overcrowding. Okay, so how’s your adoption process work? So again, we’re very unique. So we are only open on the weekends, for adoptions and visits. We run completely on volunteers. We have a board that consists of an Adoption Coordinator. And then we have volunteers that help process applications. Take the dogs out for people that want to visit with them. We schedule Meet and Greets. If people have a dog currently in the home, they have to bring their dog to the facility and our trainer conducts a meet and greets to see how the dogs get along. But yes, for the public to come, we’re only open on the weekends. And that is because, obviously, the inmates are there all week and when the inmates there, the public cannot be. That definitely makes sense, you know? So that’s why I wanted to ask the question: typically you can’t just have people coming in and out whenever they see fit. Right. 

So I mean, you guys offer so many great benefits and, you know, for inmates and dogs and the people of your community, and just overall helping out those other organizations that you pull from. But I’m curious to ask, what are some of the struggles your organization faces, specifically. Some of the struggles are the misconceptions of how our shelter is run. There’s the misconception that because this was a County program, that got this shelter built, up and running that somehow the county is funding this, which is not correct. So we run completely on donations. Completely on volunteers. There’s no paid staff, so every donation we get goes to the care of these dogs and to keep the program running. So there’s a Board of Directors that are all volunteers, and we are responsible to help do the fundraising and you know, anything we can to make sure these dogs have the supplies that they need and that we’re able to get them the betting that they need. So I would say one of the biggest misconceptions is just that people feel because it’s a county program we’re being funded somehow, but they don’t provide any funding to us. It was our former county executives’ idea. They got the actual facility built, but now it’s up to us to keep it running, and we have to pay for everything through donations. Okay, That definitely is, you know, I mean, you would think with it being something county-related and everything, so I can definitely see how that can become a misconception. But I love that you touched base on that to kind of just share a little bit of insight about what you guys struggle with, because that’s a tough one and that especially trying to relay that to people, you know, it’s definitely hard. 

Sure. And that was also one of the missions when this program was brought to light that no taxpayer dollars would be used to help fund this program. So that’s why the board of directors was put in the place, to help with the funding and create ways to keep the program going. And I mean, kudos to you guys for keeping that program going, you know? I mean, it seems like it’s truly making a difference. And the fact that you guys are so passionate about it to basically continue it without any government funding, I mean, that almost just makes it twice as awesome, you know, because it definitely seems like it’s helping more than it would be hindering or hurting in a sense, I guess. Yes, absolutely. We have huge community support. People really are supportive of this program, of the rehabilitation part of the inmates. They’re very supportive of the fact that we have local dogs because there’s such a huge need here in our community. Help the dogs in their own backyard. So we do have great community support and followers that help us out. Awesome. The support is just, it makes it all worthwhile, you know? I mean, you can’t keep going without having that positive reinforcement and support. So I also like hearing that you guys have that. Absolutely. Unfortunately, there’s always gonna be dogs in need. And we have to have the funding there in order to continue to pull them from the city shelter. Right. And that helps the shelter to take in more animals as well. And so I like I said, you guys seem like you’re really helping in more than, you know, a handful of ways. Absolutely,

 So how has COVID affected you guys? And I know you guys are unique and everything, but it has to have impacted you somehow. Could you share with us a little bit about your guys’ experience with this pandemic? COVID has dramatically impacted us because we are so unique. Animal shelters were all deemed essential meaning that, you know, employees, volunteers could still be there to take care of the dogs. But since our program is based on a correctional facility. When all this started, obviously all of the jails went into lockdown. So inmates were not allowed to leave the correctional facility. All of the programs were closed for inmates, not just our program. So that meant that we would have no one in the shelter caring for the dogs. So, for a few weeks, we were completely unbalanced with no volunteers, which is difficult because, you know, we also all have our own full-time jobs. 

So we did that as long as we could and because we have such great volunteers and community, we’re able to actually move all of the dogs out of the shelter and into foster homes. So we didn’t have to worry about them being cared for at the facility since the inmates right now are on lockdown and can’t come down. So our whole system kind of changed. We’re still up and operating just not out of the actual shelter, right now. We’re operating out of foster homes, until the inmates get the all clear that they can come out of lockdown and leave the facility. Oh, my goodness, That is super tough. So you weren’t kidding. That really has affected you guys exponentially. Yes. So, you know, most shelters around here are all back up and running, but again, because ours is so unique we don’t fall under that category. The inmates are the main caregivers. Like I said, we don’t have paid staff and all of the jails right now we’re still on lockdown due to the virus. They haven’t even allowed visitors for the inmates. No one’s been allowed in or out of the facility. Oh, my goodness. That is really tough to hear. And the fact that it affects, you know, you guys as an organization and you know your purpose and what you guys were trying to do that just that really, honestly breaks my heart to hear that you guys are struggling, just with your overall process right now. And I think out of all the organizations that I’ve talked to recently since this pandemic has been going on, yours is definitely the toughest right now because usually, everybody’s like, Well, yeah, we’ve had a whole bunch of fosters and a whole bunch of animals adopted. And, you know, I get more of that, Yeah, it’s affected as but we’ve turned it around to this and the fact that I’m hearing that you guys don’t even have that option. It’s heartbreaking. And I’m so sorry that you guys are having to go through that. Well, thank you. I appreciate it. We do have wonderful fosters right now, So we do have some dogs available. We don’t have the usual amount that we do, obviously, because the actual facility isn’t open. So the number of dogs we have currently you know is down until we can get back up and running like we normally do. No, definitely. Well, hopefully, everything will settle down and you guys will be able to get back to, I guess what’s gonna be considered as the new normal, which who knows what that’s gonna be like, right. 

So let’s take a pivot a little bit. I really want to know a little bit more about you and how long have you been with this organization? And what makes you so passionate about what you’re doing? Because I can really sense your enthusiasm and that you are really on board with your organization, and I just love that. So I’m curious a little bit more about you. So I have been with this organization since the groundbreaking, which was 2015. I originally started off as the Volunteer Coordinator on the board, and when the seat as President came up, people on the board, you know, suggested and nominated that I ran for that position and then I was elected and I’ve been in that position ever since, about for years now as President. I’m very passionate about it because I just see daily how it works, how effective it is for our community. And more communities need a program like this because the inmates that we work with, they’re going to be released in the community. So why aren’t we releasing them with skills, confidence, compassion, making them better citizens before they are released into our community? Right? It’s definitely unique, and it’s definitely a little bit different than the usual organizations that I’m used to talking with. Yes, there’s different organizations like this across the country. They’re all run differently. Some have an actual shelter on the property like we do with a separate building. Some, the dogs actually live right in the jail cells with the inmates, you know. But they all have the same concept of helping to rehabilitate the inmates and helping save the lives of homeless dogs. The most common one that I’ve heard of is where the dogs go to the facility and they stay with the inmates, you know, for like, a few weeks, like a timeframe or something like that. That’s why I think I’m intrigued by the way that you guys have it going because it is very different from what I’m used to hearing. So by all means. I mean, it’s a very good different, when I say that. I don’t mean to single you out. It’s good, different. I promise.

 So you’ve been with the organization since 2015. How do you feel like your organization has changed over the years? I’ve watched this organization grow over the years, everything from the amount of community support to the amount of volunteers, to the amount of dogs we’re able to handle. The amount of inmates that are interested in the program has increased, and the different programs that we’re also able to offer. So now, like I mentioned earlier, the inmates leave with a Certificate of Completion. That is something that wasn’t there from the beginning. We have a wonderful trainer on the board that also provides training for any of our adoptable dogs. And she does that at no cost. So people leave our facility with an adopted dog, knowing that we’re gonna be with them every step of the way. Any questions they have, any training issues, we’re there to help with. We’ve also paired with another local organization called , which is a volunteer Advocacy Lawyer program, where the lawyers volunteer their time to represent dogs that are victims of cruelty cases and when they have a need for us to take in one of their dogs, if we have the space and it’s a good fit for our program, we help and we take those dogs in. That is really cool. Honestly, I’ve never heard of that. You’re working as a voice to help give them a second chance and everything, but also those lawyers are actually fighting for their rights, just like they would a human being. And animals are beings, so I find that very interesting. Yes, absolutely.

 Well, I’m really hoping that the whole pandemic really settles down so you guys can get back at it and continue with your great program. And like I said, it’s sad to hear that you guys have kind of had to put it on hold. But I truly believe in what you guys are doing. And I think that you guys have a very great and bright future ahead and I can’t wait to check-in in the future and see how you know everything’s going for you guys.

 So if our listeners are feeling generous and they really want to get in touch with you guys to support or donate, what’s the best way that they can get in contact with you guys? If they go right on our website, it’s There’s a secure link right on there for donations. There’s also a link to connect right to our email. Email is the best way to get a hold of us. It’s [email protected] They can check out our website, our Facebook page, you know, we are happy to spread our mission and our passion with other viewers, listeners, and answer any questions that they have. The goal honestly, would be to have more programs like this in other communities. It’s a huge win-win. Yes, it is. And I think that you guys would be great to share that with people and share that with other communities. Everything because, like I said, I think your guys this program is definitely a lot more unique and I think that you guys would be great to kind of help out and educate other areas on what you guys are doing. And hopefully, they can get something going the same way. Absolutely, absolutely.

 So, Kimberly, I know that we are getting ready to wrap up, but I just wanted to ask if there was anything else that you would like to share with us today? I mean, I think we touched on a good majority of the program and our mission and we’re about saving the souls of the humans and the lives of canines, and that goes hand in hand. When they work together and saving two lives at once, and we can’t do it without the support of the community. So we really want to thank our supporters and our generous donors who believe in this mission to keep it up and running. Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you, guys, for doing what you’re doing and just keep up the great work. Well, thank you. I appreciate you having me on.

 Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a Dooberteer, sign up for free at Here at Doobert, we help you help animals. And we’d love for you to join us to help save more lives.”

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