Shelter dog inspires Lee County inmates

Author: Rachael Rafanelli

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Thousands of dollars are helping Southwest Florida animals get a second chance. Lee County Domestic Animal Services just received a grant from Petco and it’s all thanks to one puppy who is a survivor!

Behind the gated fence and barbed wire, one little dog is making a big difference.

Rudy’s story is inspiring others, including Lee County’s inmates.

In June, Fort Myers police rescued Rudy, along with others dogs, from inside a sweltering van.

They became a part of Lee County Sheriff’s Office Cell Dog program.

It teaches dogs basic training skills.

“It gives them sit, stay, crate train, potty train,” said Deputy Scott Dunn.

The handlers are the inmates themselves.

It was eventually discovered that only one of Rudy’s lungs was working. The other, had to to be removed.

Rudy survived the surgery and returned to the program. His story was turned into a video by Animal Services and ended up helping the program win a lot of money.

“It was pretty stiff competition because there were over 1,000 entries so we’re excited that we were picked to receive one of the grants,” said

The money will be used to help other local animals.

As for the inmates and their cell dogs? It’s a program in itself that’s making a difference.

“It’s amazing to see the difference that it changes in the unit. The tone, the attitude. You see the light at the end of the tunnel. You see them try to have possibilities to make themselves better,” said Deputy Greg Nesser.

Proving that both man and man’s best friend, can get a second chance.

After the cell dogs complete their program, they’are up for adoption. Rudy was just adopted by his inmate handler, who is now out of jail and starting a new life.

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