New Beginnings for Dogs and People Behind Bars

By on January 12, 2011 with 0 Comments 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.

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.

Inmate playing with dog 
Tim Mueller
Inmate Paul Hills with a dog at Dixon Correctional Institute.

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. 

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.

I wanted to share a few photos of the dogs and their handlers, who’ve shared not just treats and tail wags but a real bond.


Adopted dog Leo 
Prison Paws for Humanity








“It’s such a great feeling to know that I’m there for him. He looks at me in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever been looked at by anybody.”

Inmate Emily James, on the dog Leo she worked with at the Montana Women’s Prison. Leo was recently adopted.


Inmate with brindle dog
Tim Mueller








Inmate James Ziegler pets Penny on the grounds of the Louisiana correctional facility. “They just love animals,” said warden Steve Rader of inmates who’ve worked with the dogs there. The funding from The HSUS to help build the shelter is part of our ongoing commitment to the Gulf Coast region.


Dogs in Montana hoarding situation 
Paul Ruhter








Lexi (top right) was scared of people when she was first rescued from an overcrowded Montana home last fall…


Adopted dog Lexi 
Prison Paws for Humanity








…but she came out of her shell after inmate Twila Hallford worked with her. Before too long, Lexi started playing fetch and rolling over for belly rubs. She was recently adopted.


Lobo the dog in his new home 
Courtesy of Prison Paws for Humanity








Lobo relaxes in his new home with a friend. He was also very shy at first, but inmates Tiffanie Fitzpatrick and Jazmen Whaley helped him get over his fear.

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals

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