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EXCLUSIVE: Sheriff Tom Dart to pair inmates with pet dogs

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart asked the Cook County Board of Commissioners for an addiontal $4.7 million for an initiative that deploys sheriff's officers to areas that see a lot of gun violence. | Brian Jackson/ For the Sun-Times

Sneed exclusive . . .

Dog days are coming to the jail.

For the first time in the history of Cook County, a selected group of dogs from the city’s crowded Animal Care and Control shelter (aka “The pound”) will soon have a new temporary home: Cook County Jail.

The dogs will also have a new roommate: a jail inmate.

Sneed has exclusively learned a new program devised by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart will permit trainable dogs, ostensibly large ones that are difficult to adopt, to live with some of the jail’s most dangerous inmates housed in the maximum-security section known as Division 9.

“No murderers or rapists permitted and a protection system will be in place,” said Dart, who describes the program he calls “Tails of Redemption” to be a “win-win.”

“Our jails and prisons are exploding. Our Animal Care and Control Unit is exploding. This could be the right plan to fix the broken and alone, both animal and human,” said Dart.


Sneed is told six prisoners will begin training for the program Monday and five dogs will be under their care and living in their cells within the next three weeks.

“We hope to eventually put 100 dogs through the program,” added Dart, who claims he has “been trying to do this for years.”

Sneed is also told there are about 300 dogs in the crowded city shelter now.

“I’m up for anything,” said Dart, who has been “a dog owner all my life.”

“I have no preconceived notions about our screwed-up criminal justice system,” he said. “How could we screw it up anymore?’’

“I’d been trying to get this project off the ground for 10 years, but was told it was impossible,” he said. “Then I met a sheriff from Kentucky whose jail fostered such a program paid and promoted by country singer Emmylou Harris, who is now helping us get this program started.

“So let’s give this a try,” Dart added.

“The human canine bond can be very powerful as far as contact and stimulation are concerned,” Dart said. “It can help create empathy and compassion for the inmates for someone weaker than they are.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who has seven dogs that include four rescues, and Ald. Edward Burke (14th), who is dogless, have been credited with cutting through the bureaucratic red tape giving Dart’s “Tails of Redemption” program a green light.

“It’s easy in jail to be caught up in a defensive, threatening environment, which is not conducive when returning to society.

“Similarly, animals can go crazy if they don’t get the interaction and exercise and emotional bonding prohibiting them from being adoptable pets.

“It’s been great working with Sheriff Dart and Alderman Burke in trying to connect people back to animals so they don’t lose their empathy, compassion and humanity,” said Lopez.

“There are countless articles on the therapeutic natures of dogs and cats,” added Burke.

So what about cats?

“I’m all for it,” said Dart. “They are huge anxiety reducers.

“So let’s wait and see.”

Sole sister . . .

Was Melania Trump posing for a picture or actually soiling her soles in a garden patch?

A 2017 snapshot resurfaced and went viral this week of the first lady harvesting veggies with the Boys and Girls Club of America at the White House garden patch planted by former first lady Michelle Obama.

• The kicker: The clean white soles of Trump’s navy blue sneakers caused a meme frenzy among Twitter users.

It was twittalarious!

Sneedlings . . .

A major bow to Greg Cameron on his elevation to President and CEO of the Joffrey, churning out record after record in the ballet company’s history including the highest revenue milestone. Bravo, Greg. . . . Congrats to Mike and Nora Jackson on the birth of their daughter, Caroline Nora. Grandmother Mary Alice Houlihan is over the moon. . . . I spy: Penn State head football coach James Franklin and former Super Bowl Bear and Penn State alumni Matt Suhey swapping stories with fans at Harry Caray’s in River North recently. . . Today’s birthdays: Kristaps Porziņģis; 23, Dennis Prager; 70; and Golden Tate, 30.