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Since September, inmates housed at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office have been working on a project that the Foothills Animal Shelter considers to be kind and generous.
“They’re doing something that helps another living being have a better quality of life,” said Richard Eveleigh, executive director of the animal shelter. “That’s a very selfless thing to do.”
The new inmate program is a partnership between the sheriff’s office and the animal shelter. Inmates take old and/or unusable jail uniforms and linens and turn them into a pet bed, which are then donated to the animal shelter.
“It shows what can be achieved when different organizations work together for the good of the community,” Eveleigh said.
Bedding is one of the highest, ongoing needs at the shelter, said Christi Norfleet, the animal shelter’s director of development and community engagement.
The shelter cares for about 9,000 animals every year, Norfleet said. There will always be a need for the beds, she added.
“Every single day our animals need clean bedding,” Norfleet said. “This is an extra piece of comfort for the animals in our care.”
About 40 beds have been delivered since the program began, and on Dec. 20, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader and his deputies delivered about 30 more.
The beds are durable and are all different shapes and sizes, Norfleet said. They’re primarily for dogs, but if they can accommodate a cat, they’ll be used for them, also, she added.
The beds started off as basic, checkerboard patterns, Norfleet said, but as the inmates are getting more experience making them, they’re now including cute, decorative designs.
The program “is something good for the animals,” Shrader said, and it “repurposes something that would otherwise go to the landfill.”
And more so, it helps inmates be productive while they’re in jail, he said.
The pet bed program is one of many jobs that inmates can do while serving their time in jail, Shrader said. The jobs range from kitchen work, such as preparing meals, to laundry or other cleaning tasks; and shoveling snow to tending to the jail’s ground’s gardens. About 200 inmates do these jobs, Shrader said. They are selected through a classification system based on behavior, he added.
Providing inmates with an opportunity to do these jobs helps them with discipline, focus and work ethic — the intangible things that employers look for, Shrader said.
“The hope is they can be productive once they get out,” Shrader added. “If somebody can learn those things along the way, I think that’s beneficial.”
The animal control officers also deserve recognition for the work they do for the safety and well-being for the animals in the community, Eveleigh said.
“They’re the ones in the field every day. They’re the ones who are most in tune with the homeless, lost and vulnerable animals in the community,” Eveleigh said. “We couldn’t do the work we do without them.”
Foothills Animal Shelter has a variety of community partners, Norfleet said. And each of them is valued, she added.
“Happy pets make happy families,” Norfleet said. And when pets are happy, “they are able to demonstrate their readiness for a forever home.”
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