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September 4, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

How Sheltered Animals' Lives are Saved and Inmates Lives are Turned Around

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

Many lost, abandoned, and forgotten pets have been saved from being euthanized with new programs that match a sheltered dog with an inmate to undergo intense training to service a disabled person or to be adopted out by a loving new forever home. Through the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and local correctional institutes, there is a new way to help sheltered animals have a second chance at life. Not only do these wonderful dogs get a second chance, many inmates are experiencing their second chance as well to give back to a society that they once stole from.

Getting Ready for Adoption

Many correctional facilities like Dixon Correctional Institute (DCI) in Jackson, LA are working hard in providing a place for unwanted or lost animals a place to reside until they can be adopted out. Their program is called Pen Pals, Inc. Animal Shelter.

Inmates that work with these animals under the guidance of a certified veterinarian and technician learn patience, love, and how to treat another living being with respect. The inmates in this particular program are non-violent offenders that are allowed to participate in programs like this.

They teach the dogs basic commands such as, sit, down, come, and stay. They also work to curb unwanted behaviors like jumping and barking. Potty training and leash walking is also part of these dogs and inmates curricular program. With the inmate's hard work, many of these animals are rehabilitated so they can be adopted out to their forever home.

Helping the Disabled

There are also programs that help train service dogs to assist with the disabled. Whether it is a child or an adult that is wheelchair bound, has autism, or even a veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), these dogs are being trained to help those in need.

The inmates work with puppies from a special group of dogs that were specifically bred to be service dogs. They teach the puppies special exercises that they will use to perform when servicing a disabled person.

Typically, the dog lives with the inmate in their cell around the clock, so they can learn routines and schedules for 18 months.

Special program-directed trainers come in and work with the inmates and dogs to teach them the skills that are required and needed to be a service dog. Once these puppies complete the program they are used for either a service/guide dog or law enforcement.

The average cost to purchase a service dog can be as high as $20,000 - $60,000. With the inmate programs, the price is miniscule in comparison.

How much do these programs cost?

The programs are offered through a non-profit organization, so the cost is covered by that particular organization. Also, grants are often given to these programs to help subsidize the cost.

A majority of prisons contribute by offering fenced in yards and sometimes a separate area for inmates and the dogs. Some prisons will use their "prisoner benefit fund" to help pay for training books and other pet related necessities.

Do Inmates really benefit from this type of program?

Yes, they do. When an inmate is given responsibility of another living being it helps them learn to give back to society instead of taking. Prisoners have time on their hands and that is exactly what shelters and service dogs need; volunteers that can dedicate time, hours, and consistency with shelters and service dog programs.

These programs only allow minimal to medium security facilities to participate. Many programs require a certain criteria for a prisoner to meet in order to participate such as: no abuse towards a child, dependent, or animal, be "misconduct free" for six months to a year, have a GED or high school diploma, and be at least two years away from their release date.

By helping others, the inmates are gaining a different perspective on life. Contrary to what we may think, the programs main focus is not the dogs, but the inmates. With proper guidance, relationship, and skill building many inmates leave prison to go to school to be a vet tech, dog groomer, or some other animal related profession. They leave with confidence and as a contributor to society.

This truly is a Win-Win program for both dogs and inmates.

Resources:

HSUS Prison Animal Shelter

Urban Dog Magazine

Ann Arbor News - Michigan Paws Helps Shelter Dogs Prisoners

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