The founder and chief operating officer of Paws for Life K9 Rescue were honored by the Los Angeles Chargers for their work at prisons at Saturday’s “Inspire Change” game against the Buffalo Bills.
Alex Tonner and Jon Grobman received the team’s Inspire Change Changemaker Award for their rehabilitation work at the Lancaster-based California State Prison, the California Medical Facility in Vacaville and Mule Creek State Prison in Ione. The NFL Foundation donated $10,000 to Paws for Life K9 Rescue in Tonner and Grobman’s names.
Paws For Life began the first dog rehabilitation program in a men’s maximum-security prison in April 2014 at the state prison in Lancaster. The inmates committed to 10 weeks of work, including building dog runs outside their cellblock, working in shifts to care for, train and socialize the animals, and creating a bridge to the outside world. All 15 dogs who were rescued from high-kill shelters earned their “Canine Good Citizen” certification through the American Kennel Club.
Released inmates who have participated in the program have gone on to work at nonprofit organizations, become professional dog trainers and business owners, according to the organization. Tonner spent many years volunteering for dog rescues before founding Paws for Life K9 Rescue in 2014. Grobman oversees the prison training programs.
“As someone who is formerly incarcerated, Paws For Life provided an extraordinary path to my own transformation,” said Grobman, who studied dog emotion and cognition at Duke University.