October 5, 2007

Inmates make dog houses for shelter


MALONE — Inmates from vocational classes at Bare Hill Correctional Facility made a much-appreciated donation to the North Country Animal Shelter this week.

One by one, a forklift delivered 14 of the dog houses the inmates built to replace the rundown structures that had been used at the shelter for years.

If the work teams hadn’t run out of some materials they need, the inmates would have finished all 20 of the new homes they intend to build, said Leonard St. Hilaire, one of the vocational instructors who taught the inmates about the tools and building skills needed for the project.

Vocational Supervisor Paul Tishman said Shelter Manager Shirley Morton contacted the facility earlier in the year, asking if anything could be done to replace the worn-out dog houses for the animals that spend the winter outdoors.

Construction materials were donated from Ward Lumber and Home Depot and included plywood, lumber, shingles and insulation.

“We took photographs of the dog houses they’d be replacing and hung them up in the shop for inspiration,” Tishman said. “The inmates get credit for the work they do on the houses as part of their vocational training.”

St. Hilaire said he had to turn some inmates away from volunteering because so many were excited and proud to be part of the project.

Morton is beside herself with joy over the whole thing because so many animals will finally have decent housing.

The dog houses come in three sizes: beagle size, which is 3 feet by 3 feet; medium size, which measure 4 feet by 4 feet; and St. Bernard size, which are 5 feet by 5 feet.

Each is made of heavy plywood and has rafters and a partition that divides the house in half.

The dog enters the doorway, walks toward the back, turns and enters a separate space protected from the elements by the partition.

The entire structure is insulated, and a bed of straw is placed inside for added comfort.

The pointed roof, which sports new shingles, can be lifted for easy-access cleaning.

Some houses are painted a bright blue while others have a muted brown tone or are painted white.

“This means a lot for us to be able to do this,” said Lawrence Sterns, deputy superintendent of programs at Bare Hill.

“It’s important that we teach the inmates skills and also important that we teach them to do things for the community.

“They were really eager to do this job,” he said, adding that the incarcerated people got a sense of what it’s like to make an important contribution. “It’s a win-win for all of us.”

Forklift operator and Custodial Maintenance Instructor Peter Sprague carried the dog houses to their respective places and removed the older decaying homes.

Morton said the old houses will be placed outside the shelter gates so people can take them for free if they need a dog house or want to upgrade from what they use now.

“I know we will be sending a few to St. Regis Falls because there are some being used that are not as good as these.”

Anyone wishing to have an old house can reserve one by calling the shelter at 483-8079.

E-mail Denise A. Raymo at: