By Jim Misunas
LARNED — Inmates at the West Unit at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility are a dog’s best friend.
Minimum security inmates at the West Unit under the supervision of Master Sgt. Brian Prescott and Max Emerson, CSI, recently installed exterior fencing to house dog pens so that larger dogs can enjoy the outdoors. Inmates working recently were Michael Moore, John Rudy, Jesus Vasquez, Dale Owens and Benjamin Cullum.
Chastity Solko, Pawnee County Humane Society president, said the volunteer help is invaluable, especially on construction work, which is still ongoing.
“The guys are doing a wonderful job and it’s awesome to have them help as much as they are able,” she said. “Everyone involved in the Pawnee County Humane Society is a volunteer. We’re very thankful for everyone’s help because we would not get anything done without them.”
Solko said the outdoor pens which are completed are being used to get the dogs fresh air and a chance to stretch their legs. The shelter is housing 35 dogs and 38 cats with a waiting list for dogs.
“We’ve adopted out quite a few dogs,” she said.
Randy Green, LCMHF West Unit team manager, said the offenders are minimum security inmates with sentences ranging from a few months to a few years.
“Many of the offenders receive experience in a number of different skills that include carpentry, roofing and general construction,” Green said. “Some have gone on to work in some of the areas that they have received experience in while incarcerated.”
Green said offenders have provided help for various projects for towns, non-profit organizations and counties. They’ve worked with the Pawnee County Fair, Humane Society, Sante Fe Trail Center, Relay for Life and other organizations.
Ray Reno, LCMHF deputy warden, said the work by the West Unit is a good example of integrating inmates back into society.
The 3,850-sq. ft. building is near the entrance of the Larned State Hospital off W. 8th. It provides room for dogs and cats with separate rooms for food prep, laundry, grooming and education. The shelter has a priority of keeping Pawnee County dogs and cats and finding them a suitable home. Virgil Donovan is the animal control officer for the city of Larned and Joe Eidson serves as shelter manager.
Adoptable animals are available for viewing on the web site pawneehumane.com. People interested in adopting pets can call (620) 282-2554. People can make donations to PCHS, P.O. Box 224, Larned, KS, 67550.