Prison can be a difficult place to handle mentally. Spending all of your days in a high stress environment combined with the lack of variety in day to day activities means prisoners often struggle. The American prison system often struggles with rehabilitation programs to ensure no repeat offending. However in the last two decades, a special type of program has started to appear that’s really helped both prisoners and the animals they interact with.
Prisoners work to socialize and train dogs. They build bonds that they certainly otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Prison culture is a very masculine culture where emotion isn’t allowed to be shown. That of course has to do with other humans. When dealing with pets, suddenly prisoners are allowed to show emotions they weren’t otherwise and can express themselves far better.
The Prison Pet Partnership
The prison pet partnership is one of the oldest programs in the United States. It’s been working since 1981. The prison pet partnership works to help train dogs for the disabled. They receive the dogs as puppies and run through the various training required for the dog to become a proper service dog. Additionally the pets live with the inmates during their training. It’s a link to the outside world that makes things so much better for the inmates. The pets receive their training at the prison and if they qualify, they become service dogs for the disabled. If they do not qualify as service dogs, they receive additional obedience training and are put up for adoption. Since all the dogs come from animal shelters, it’s also helping out the animal shelters with overcrowding. The program continues to grow and evolve. In addition to standard features, the program is switching to more day to day operations. People can board their pets there while on vacation now. Additionally some inmates have been trained in proper grooming techniques and your pets can now receive grooming and spa days through the program.
Puppies Behind Bars
Puppies behind bars is another program that has their service dogs live with inmates. Puppies Behind Bars started back in 1997. The dogs undergo training for a different set of skills than in the Prison Pet Partnership. Pets in puppies behind bars are trained for two different purposes. The first is similar in that they are trained for wounded veterans. The veterans receive a companion who can assist them in their daily lives and also helps assist them with their injuries. The other thing dogs can be trained for is as bomb sniffing dogs. The explosive program came in after the world trade center attacks. Explosive sniffing dogs are valuable assets to any police or security force. While they aren’t needed all the time, it’s better to have them and not need them than to not have the option at all.
Larch Cat Adoption Program
While most programs focus on dogs in prison, there’s one that helps to rehabilitate cats. The Larch program involves cats who struggle with behavior issues and were not going to get adopted because of it. These cats generally are what would be referred to as rescue cats. They were treated badly or were outright abused in their previous houses. This gives them a chance to acclimatize to humans who aren’t going to hurt them. This gave inmates a chance to be gentler and responsible. In a violent culture, that’s a chance to truly rehabilitate and be ready for life afterward.