Melbourne, FL (Florida Today) -- Dogs and prisoners will soon get to take walks together.
Following concerns that dogs at county-operated animal shelters aren't getting enough time outside – and a proposal to spend $18,000 in taxpayer money to hire dog walkers – Sheriff Wayne Ivey offered to have jail inmates walk the dogs for free.
The issue arose when a volunteer dog walker approached the Brevard County Commission last week. Linda del Gallego said the animals "are going stir-crazy," because they aren't getting walked.
"You're just like warehousing them," she said.
County Commissioner Trudie Infantini was supportive of Gallego's proposal to hire three part-time dog walkers at $10 an hour.
"I just think it's a fundamental right," Infantini said of dogs getting walks.
The Sheriff's Office is taking over county animal services on Oct. 1 and started providing inmate labor to maintain and clean shelters earlier this year, according to a news release.
Inmates at the jail already have the opportunity to get outdoors on chain gangs and through inmate-labor programs. The agency's Paws and Stripes Program also pairs inmates with abused animals to train pets for adoption.
After the meeting Tuesday, two commissioners reached out to Ivey – Andy Anderson's office contacted him by phone and Commissioner Robin Fisher spoke with him in person, according to Deputy Maria Fernez, a sheriff's department spokeswoman.
"I think this is an exceptional solution that will not financially impact our citizens, while benefiting our shelter pets," Ivey said in a release.
Brevard County Animal Services and Enforcement Director Karla Torpy said the help of the sheriff is welcomed.
"I think it's awesome," Torpy said. "It's great for the dogs. Everybody's excited. It will only help."
Torpy said her department also received a number of calls from potential dog-walking volunteers after a story about the volunteer shortage appeared last week in FLORIDA TODAY and on floridatoday.com.
Want to volunteer?
Call 321-253-6608 or 321-264-5119 or visit brevardcounty.us/AnimalServices and click on the "volunteer opportunities" tab.