Church partners with Humane Society

There are many animals available for adoption at the Forsyth Humane Society, such as this puppy from a litter of nine.

Church partners with Humane Society
January 26
02:55 2017

Photo by Timothy Ramsey



The Faith and Justice committee of St Paul’s Episcopal Church in conjunction with the Forsyth County Humane Society educated people on a prison program named “A New Leash on Life.”

The A New Leash on Life program places dogs at the Forsyth Correctional Center where volunteers from the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club teach inmates how to train them.  The dogs in turn become more adoptable, the men learn a skill and receive unconditional love and the adopting families experience a teachable moment about second chances for men and for dogs.

The speakers for the Jan. 19 event were Anna Marie Smith, former Humane Society Board president and New Leash on Life coordinator; Danny Rawley, Forsyth Humane Society kennel technician, dog trainer and former  inmate; and Sarah Williamson, Forsyth Humane Society executive director.

Williamson Forsyth Humane Society executive director.

Williamson said the program is a part of the North Carolina Department Of Public Safety.  She says a local correctional facility chooses to embrace the program and then partner with a local animal rescue group. The Forsyth Humane Society has partnered with the correctional center since 2009.

“The way it works is the correctional center chooses four to six men who are going to participate in the program and the humane society identifies four dogs and we place the dogs in the prison for 10 weeks,” Williamson said. “Volunteers from the Winston-Salem Dog Training Club come out once a week to train the men to train the dogs.”

Nan Griswold, member of the Faith and Justice committee at St. Paul’s Episcopal and advisory council member for the Forsyth Humane Society, said her church had a meeting on race relations and they came to the decision to partner with the program.

“I came at the program from two different directions, from the faith and justice committee but also because I’m so impressed with the work that is done here every single day,” Griswold said. “The city has shown that they are compassionate, especially to our animals.”

During the event Williamson spoke about all that they do at the Forsyth Humane Society. She touched on the New Leash on Life program and the lives the program has affected. Danny Rawley, a former inmate and participant in the program, was highlighted for transforming his life and the importance of second chances.

Rawley said he was incarcerated for eight years and he knew he had to make a change in his life. He said he saw an announcement about the program and decided to join. He says eventually there were not any openings but after six months he was given an opportunity. He thinks the program has saved his life.

“It’s been a win-win situation from the beginning for me,” said Rawley. “The New Leash On Life program changed me. It gave me strength, it gave me hope and it gave me back stuff I lost along the way. To this day, I am proud to be a part of a New Leash On Life.”

Rawley said it was difficult for him to obtain employment and even find a dwelling in a good neighborhood once released from prison. He credits the individuals from the Humane Society and others for their diligent work by helping him find a place to live and employment. He currently works for the Humane Society and trains dogs.

Officials of the program wanted to give a special thank you to Benita Witherspoon, superintend-ent of Forsyth Correctional Center, for maintaining the program.

The Faith and Justice committee from St. Paul’s will hold another event on Thursday, Feb. 16 that will highlight the challenges of those returning to society after incarceration and what can be done to ease the transition.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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