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Tails wagging: Inmates train dogs now up for adoption in new coed program
February 13, 2017, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Brandi Vogl introduces Summer, the dog she trained as part of the TAILS program, to her new owner Lisa Braun, right, at the Maguire Correctional Facility.

Genevieve Llamas shows how Lizzie, a 3-year-old Chihuahua, has learned new skills since the two participated in the TAILS program at the San Mateo County Jail.

For rescue dogs like 6-year old Summer and 10-year-old Gypsy, getting sent to jail may have actually been one of the best things that could have happened to them.

Eight weeks after arriving at the San Mateo County’s new Maguire Correctional Facility, six dogs from the Peninsula Humane Society and their inmate handlers demonstrated the power of the Transitioning Animals Into Loving Situations program Thursday, Feb. 9.

For the first time since the collaborative TAILS program began in 2009, a group of female inmates were able to participate marking the premiere coed graduating class of a program touted as beneficial to both the human handlers and their furry companions.

“I wanted to do something positive with my time and productive and make a difference; so I thought TAILS would be good for me. It’s a learning experience,” said Brandi Vogl, a Redwood City native who has been at Maguire since November. “And it’s therapeutic too for us, not only do the animals get a lot of benefits out of it as well. The unconditional love, you can’t top that.”

Although male inmates have been participating in the program helping to train and socialize nearly 86 dogs with behavioral problems that have all since been adopted, it wasn’t until the county began operating its new jail last year that enough women volunteered to participate, according to PHS and the Sheriff’s Office.

Vogl, who had been working with the poodle-mix Summer, was able to offer a few training tips as she met the 6-year-old rescue dog’s new owner.

“I think it’s so great for the dogs to have the training and the socialization and really great for the inmates too who get to work with them,” said Hillsborough resident Lisa Braun, who adopted Summer. “She is probably better behaved than our other two dogs, so I’m hoping some of it will rub off!”

Braun attended Thursday’s graduation ceremony at the Redwood City jail and vowed to keep up on the training Vogl had begun with Summer.

In the years-long process of designing the new jail at 1300 Maple St., officials actually took the TAILS program into consideration. There are training rooms for the dogs, kennels where they sleep and even an outside turfed area where they can exercise. Thursday’s first ever coed graduating class marked the 24th group of inmates to participate and three of the six dogs still need homes.

Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said he’s pleased another one of the county’s programs aimed at reducing recidivism is now more readily accessible to women because of the new facility.

Committing to providing equal opportunities for women inmates, Bolanos added, “I can’t think of anything better we can do in this new facility than give our inmates an opportunity to better themselves.”

Inmate participants are screened and must already be in the jail’s transitional program. They are responsible for the dogs’ around-the-clock care, attend weekly training with a PHS behavioralist and must regularly practice with the dogs.

Inmate Joshua Subia listed the things he’d learned about caring for a dog, adding having the companionship was rewarding. Having worked with the “senior” dog Gypsy, a 10-year-old shih tzu, Subia said he was very pleased to see her get adopted and noted the program also provides stray animals another chance.

Dave McAlpin and his wife arrived at the jail’s graduation ceremony, after which Gypsy headed home with them.

“I love it, great idea,” he said of the program. “It benefits the dogs, benefits the inmates, benefits us to get a trained dog rather than one right from the humane society.”

Martina Contreras, a certified dog trainer and volunteer with the PHS, works with the inmates and noted many have been raised in an environment where mistreating animals is common. For her, the program’s lasting impacts are a main driver behind her passion to work with the at-risk dog and human populations.

“I love the whole program. I like that the inmates have a job to do, the dogs get adopted. I really, really like the education of the humans,” Contreras said, adding she knows it’s successful when “I can get my point across — you don’t have to be mean to a dog, you don’t have to use a shock collar, you don’t have to strangle them. They can be trained with love and kindness.”

For Vogl, who is scheduled to be released soon, she plans to carry on the lessons learned working to socialize and care for Summer.

“I think San Mateo County did an awesome job with the program. Everybody needs love and they’re good dogs, they’re all good dogs,” Vogl said. “Everybody needs to be rescued. I’d do it again, I’d do it in the streets when I get released. I might volunteer at a [shelter].”


Visit for more information about adoptions.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106 



Tags: program, inmates, summer, training, adopted, benefits,

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San Mateo County police reports

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