The way it works is that homeless dogs live in the prison with the inmates while they wait to be adopted. The selected inmates train and socialize the dogs, which makes them more likely to be adopted. While they are doing that, the dogs give the inmates love in return, which helps them learn how to be better people themselves.
The program is called Safe Harbor Prison Dogs, and it’s run by Brett Peterson, an employee at the prison who is also a big dog lover. He believes the program is doing a great job for everyone concerned, people and dogs.
Inmates chosen for the program have to have good behavior and must pass a background check to make sure they have no history of harming animals. Then, they have to be approved by the prison staff to be able to work with the dogs in the program. The dogs in the program are very well cared for, even spoiled.
The homeless dogs come from area animal shelters, humane societies and rescue groups. Safe Harbor takes all sorts of dogs, unless they are aggressive in nature. Brett goes to the shelters to choose the dogs and has a hard time not bringing back all of them.
Once they are brought back to the prison, the dogs are matched up with appropriate prisoner dog handlers. The dogs at the prison live with their handlers. It usually doesn’t take more than a couple of days for the dogs to be happy and livelier after he is paired off with one of the prisoners. The dogs then get leash trained, learn some tricks and get to frolic and play in the fenced prison yard.
While at the prison the dogs get to be around all sorts of people and situations such as people with loud jiggling keys, guards with shining flashlights, and prisoners hoisting dumbbells or running around the track. This helps them get more socialized. Then, after the dogs are deemed ready, they go to the local PetSmart on Saturdays for adoption.
The dogs give many inmates their first chance to look after and care for another living creature. They get a sense of accomplishment when they take a frightened and unsocial dog and make him into an appropriate pet for a family.