By Wayne Pacelle
We at The HSUS have always celebrated the bond between people and animals, especially with the dogs, cats and other companion animals who add so much to our lives.
These animals offer us companionship and love, no matter who or where we are. And both people and the animals can benefit from this kind of connection.
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That’s why stories like those from the Montana Women’s Prison and the Dixon Correctional Institute, as featured in the most recent issue of All Animals, are particularly uplifting. These two prisons host programs where inmates help care for dogs who need homes.
At the Montana Women’s Prison, a local group called Prison Paws for Humanity places dogs with inmates who provide training and socialization so the animals can be adopted to good homes. After The HSUS worked with the Wibaux County Sheriff’s office to rescue more than 100 dogs from an overrun Montana property last fall, Prison Paws for Humanity took in several of the dogs.
These dogs had been living in filthy conditions, and some were very fearful. But with patience and kindness from inmates at the Montana prison, Leo, Lexi and Lobo have begun to trust people. The women taught the dogs basic commands and helped them get accustomed to new people and situations. I’m happy to report that as of last week, these three dogs have been adopted to new homes.
The Montana program is just one of the examples of inmates working with dogs and how it can be good for everyone involved. At the Dixon Correctional Institute in Louisiana, The HSUS provided a $600,000 grant that helped build a new animal shelter to take in stray pets from the parish, which had no shelter of its own.
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At the shelter, which was officially dedicated last month, the inmates help care for the animals until they’re placed for adoption. Now the community has a shelter to take in stray pets, the dogs have a chance at a forever home, and the inmates gain valuable skills and experience from the program.
These programs are obviously good for the dogs, but they also foster responsibility and empathy in inmates, and may help them in handling their new lives after their incarceration.