GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A beloved program that brings inmates and rescue dogs together is ending at the Gwinnett County Jail.
Jail officials say they have to make room for more mental health services.
“This was a very difficult decision to make,” said Gwinnett County Chief Cleo Atwater.
Gwinnett County inmates have been making friends with rescue dogs inside of the jail for more than a decade.
But, the Gwinnett Jail’s Dogs Program which helped find homes for dogs and joy for inmates is coming to an end.
“We are needing to make modifications to the unit where the jail dog program is currently housed,” Atwater said.
The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office says they’ve seen a 73% increase in inmates who need mental health services.
Atwater also says chronically ill inmates need more intensive care to keep them alive.
“This is about saving lives,” Atwater said.
The Gwinnett Jail’s Dogs Program was launched in 2010 with the help of the Society of Humane Friends of Georgia.
It turned rescue dogs into therapy dogs for inmates.
Organizers say volunteers helped inmates train more than 1,500 animals that ended up adopted by families.
The jail dogs space is next to the jail hospital and Atwater says that’s where they need to expand services for their sick inmates.
“Technology to help monitor inmates, infrastructure to help serve the inmates within the facilities,” Atwater said.
There are four adult dogs left in the program.
Kaiser, Rocky, Ton, and Nala will need permanent homes by next month.
“The number one goal is to find a permanent home,” Atwater said.
There are no plans to euthanize any of the dogs if new homes are not found. Click here, for more information on how you can help the jail dogs program.
WSB-TV’s Matt Johnson contributed to this report.