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06/25/2019

SCI Fayette Employees to Donate Trained Dog to Local Citizen

LaBelle, PA – On February 25, 2019, Bev and Amanda Ritneour lost their home, including all of their possessions and Amanda's two beloved dogs to a house fire with no homeowners' insurance to cover the loss. Amanda has cerebral palsy and even tried to crawl back into her home to save her dogs.

SCI Fayette Lt. Dongilli, a neighbor of the Ritneours brought the tragic story to the attention of SCI Fayette employees, asking if the prison and its staff would be willing to bring a small dog into the prison's dog program and train it to be donated to Amanda.

That was all that the staff at SCI Fayette and Humane Animal Rescue needed to hear. The prison and the shelter currently partner to support the prison's D.A.W.G. (Developing Animals with Goals) program. The shelter provides dogs to be trained in basic obedience by the inmates in the hope of making them more adoptable. The trainers from the shelter visit the prison weekly to assist the inmates in training the dogs, who stay a minimum of six weeks. Since the program's inception in May 2017, there have been 44 successful adoptions.

By March 14th, Rolo, an approximately 1-year-old poodle was brought to SCI Fayette. At the request of Amanda, Rolo's name was changed to Fluffy shortly after his arrival.  Fluffy has been with his trainers for approximately 3½ months. He knows how to sit, stay, leave it, up, rollover, down, wait at the door, drop it and loose leash walk. He has been acclimated to be around wheelchairs and to jump into your lap if you are sitting and tap your chest. He is a little dog with a big personality.

SCI Fayette employees were asked to provide donations to pay for Fluffy's adoption fee, which was approximately $200. Due to staff's generosity, a total of $625 was raised. This not only covered the adoption fee and a grooming session, but it also paid for a bed, treats, bowls, grooming tools, toys, flea medication, tear stain wipes, shampoo, detangler spray, seat belt tether, leash, name tag, storage containers and a $70 gift certificate to a local pet store so the family had no out-of-pocket expenses. Superintendent Mark Capozza personally donated a crate. 

On June 25th, Fluffy was ready to be presented to his new owner. Lt. Dongilli brought Amanda to the institution. She was escorted to the visiting room where employees and inmate trainers were waiting. When the two inmates who trained Fluffy were asked to make statements, both inmates agreed that it was hard to let Fluffy go, but since they knew he was going to a "furever" home where he would be loved and taken care of, it made letting go easier. By the end of the morning Fluffy and Amanda had already bonded. 

"This family was devastated by fire, and we're honored that both the employees and the inmate population at SCI Fayette can assist in helping this family return to normalcy," said Superintendent Mark Capozza.

MEDIA CONTACT: Rhonda House, 724-364-2200

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