Wednesday, June 23, 2010
By Ruthie Bently
There have been several discussions on the social networking sites lately about dogs in prisons. There are numerous organizations around the United States that match dogs with prison inmates to the benefit of both. There are training programs associated with all of them, and several of them train service dogs. I found one that has a twofold purpose: they not only match a dog with an inmate to enable the dog to enter a loving home fully trained, they use rescued retired racing Greyhounds.
I recently spoke with Beverly Sebastian about the program 2nd Chance at Life, which is affiliated with the National Greyhound Foundation. What makes this program unique? It is nationwide and not localized to one state or region of the United States. Their ultimate goal is to partner with over 100 Department of Correction facilities in twenty states, using 12,000 inmates and 100 Greyhound adoption groups to save the lives of more than 6,000 retired racing Greyhounds a year. If you would like more information about 2nd Chance at Life, click here to visit their website.
2nd Chance at Life places retired racing Greyhounds with prisoners to be socialized and obedience trained so they can be adopted. After an extensive obedience training course, each dog receives a certificate (tailored specifically to retired Greyhounds) that is the equivalent of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen award. Each inmate also receives a certificate of completion. The hours an inmate spends training each dog can be used toward becoming certified as a dog trainer, which they can use as a vocation after their release. All the equipment needed for the Greyhound is furnished by 2nd Chance. This includes a crate and dog food, and no monies come from any of the correctional facilities where the dogs are placed. A certified dog trainer works alongside the inmates training the Greyhounds to assist them, and their salary is also paid by 2nd Chance.
The 2nd Chance at Life program teaches the inmate trainer responsibility and patience, and allows them to experience the unconditional love of a pet, sometimes for the first time. It begins with a rescued racing Greyhound being placed with an inmate in a prison foster home. This gives the dog a place to live until they can be adopted, which keeps the Greyhound from being euthanized in a shelter facility. Each inmate is screened before being accepted into the program, and must have a clean record for at least two years prior to acceptance. Inmates are relieved of idleness and boredom as they are entirely responsible for the Greyhound’s care. A Greyhound with obedience training that has graduated from the program is more apt to be retained in a new adoptive home.
Each inmate keeps a daily journal, in which they write their dog’s progress as well as their thoughts about the program, their dog and what it has done for them. When their dog graduates and is adopted, to alleviate any separation anxiety the dog may have they are sent to their new home with a blanket that has the inmate’s scent on it. This helps them adjust to life in their new home. Some new owners even pass on photos of the adopted Greyhound for the inmate trainer. The inmate is immediately given a new dog to train and the process begins again.
Director Wilkinson of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections stated “The program alleviates boredom and tension in prison, resulting in a safer environment for both staff and inmates.” This sounds like a win-win situation to me, how about you?
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently