Prison-Based Dog Training Programs:
Rehabilitation for Canine and Human

Please do NOT write me for information on this page - I curated the information on this page back in 2009, but I am NOT involved in any of these programs, and I no longer update this page.

It's happening all over the USA: prison inmates receive training to, in turn, train dogs from animal shelters. The prisoners learn a joy, a compassion and a responsibility that can come only from raising and training a dog, as well as skills that can help them find a job. The dog becomes adoptable. Some lucky family gets to adopt a well-trained dog that, just a few weeks before, would have been put to death merely for being unwanted. OR, the dog is trained especially for security jobs (drug sniffing, bomb sniffing at airports, etc.). The shelter reduces the numbers of dogs killed every year in the USA (which totals in the MILLIONS).

Most attribute the original idea to a model for prison pet partnership programs envisioned in 1981 by Sister Pauline Quinn, who introduced the concept of inmates training unwanted dogs for those persons with disabilities. The program was initiated in the Washington prison for women.

Here is a quote from an inmate and a nurse at the Green River Correctional Complex in Central City, Kentucky, which either runs, or used to run, this type of program (I can't find any recent reference to it online):

"She likes to play now. She didn't want to play. She really didn't want to be petted when she first got here, like she'd been abused. Now everyone that passes her she thinks is supposed to pet her," says inmate Robert Smith, Dixie's handler. "She's helped me a lot because she helped me find the man that I was before I came to prison and I like the person that I found."

A nurse at the prison says the atmosphere at the prison has changed since the program started. "They're more friendly toward each other. We haven't had as many fights. You can see the changes in the inmates themselves, being responsible for somebody else has given them a purpose," says Ina Benge.

The page you are reading now was started in early 2006 to list various programs happening in the USA, with the hope that other prisons and animals shelters throughout the world will be able to access the info they need to start their own programs. This page was launched in early 2006, and I think it was the first attempt online to track prison-based dog training programs; however, I don't have time to maintain this page. Anyone want to take it over? If so, please contact me.

Please note that I have NO further information than what is on this page!!! If you are looking for further information than what is here on this page, I have none. Sorry.

If you are interested in developing such a prison-based dog-training program (or other prison-based animal-case program), I suggest that you purchase Animals in institutions. This action guide provides a compilation of sample infection control policies, resource information, journal and popular articles, and conference abstracts for hospitals, nursing homes, corrections facilities, and hospices.

Also, Patricia Kelley wrote a Prison Dogs Book, with an associated web site and blog, regarding prison-based dog training programs.

If you are looking for further information on prison-based training programs, do NOT contact me; I have no further information than what is posted on this web page. Instead, contact the Delta Society, Patricia Kelley, or any of the programs listed below.


A Second Chance
A program featured on PBS.

An article from PetSmart, called "Pen Pals"

See photos of many of the programs mentioned above

But it's not ONLY dogs: the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) began partnering with correctional institutions throughout the United States to give young and adult prisoners an opportunity to learn how to care for "retired" horses who would have otherwise gone to slaughter. In addition to saving horses, the goal of the project is to rehabilitate prisoners by giving them new skills and knowledge, helping them find a sense of purpose, and healing emotional wounds through human-animal connection.

Also see Britton, Dana. and Button, Andrea. "Prison Pups: Assessing the Effects of Dog Training Programs in Correctional Facilities," a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Royal York, Toronto, and published in the Journal of Family Social Work, 9(4), 2005, pp.79-95. (Sorry, but I do NOT have a copy; contact your local library). The abstract says, "During the past twenty-five years the number of prison programs in which inmates train dogs has increased rapidly. There are no comprehensive data on the prevalence of such programs but they are in existence in at least twenty U.S. states, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Italy. Though extremely popular among both administrators and inmates, we have only anecdotal accounts to assess the effects of dog training by inmates. Such programs appear to have the potential to break down barriers of fear and mistrust between staff and inmates and there is also some evidence, again anecdotal, that they reduce recidivism and behavioral infractions among inmates. Literally no systematic studies exist, however. This research provides preliminary information from data collected in two Kansas prisons (a men’s and a women’s institution) in which inmates train assistance dogs and dogs made available for adoption by the general public. This paper focuses on the qualitative findings from the study, which involves interviews with inmates, staff, and administrators. These interviews cover three areas: baseline data on the history, curricula and requirements of these programs; administrator and staff perspectives about the effectiveness of the programs – their effects on inmate behavior, recidivism, and on institutional safety and security; and inmate perceptions about their work with the dogs, its implications for their lives in prison, and the potential impact on their future prospects after release."

Please do NOT write me for information on this page - I curated the information on this page back in 2009, but I am NOT involved in any of these programs, and I no longer update this page.

Also see camping with your dogs



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