Dogs not drugs: Jail uses dog training program to help opioid addicted inmates

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — The Seminole County Jail recently added a new component to help opioid-addicted inmates on their path to recovery. The women get medical treatment, cognitive therapy and, now, they help train adoptable dogs.

Chris and Tucker are two dogs currently learning to sit, stay and shake, thanks to the women involved in the program. The goal is for the dog to become more adoptable and for the women to overcome their addictive behaviors.

“It's made my road to recovery a lot more therapeutic. They do so much for us,” one woman enrolled in the program said. “We do a lot for them but I think they do more for us.”

READ: Gov. DeSantis announces $26 million in funding to fight opioid crisis in Florida

Sheriff Dennis Lemma has made it a mission to help those struggling with opioid addiction.

“I think it’s important to mention this is a very rigorous program,” Lemma said. “It's academic. It's 16 hours a day. But I think specifically with the animals, I think it teaches responsibility, you know when you have to care for a living breathing thing."

Lemma said there was a 200 percent increase in the number of overdoses in Seminole County last year but a 25 percent reduction in overdose deaths.

READ: Dogs used as drug mules to smuggle heroin into U.S., vet sentenced for implanting drugs into puppies

The hope is that Chris and Tucker will be adopted together after they complete their training.

If you are interested in adopting them, call Seminole County Animal Services at 407-665-5201.

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.