Correctional Service Canada
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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Pet Facilitated Therapy in Correctional Institutions

VIDEO REVIEWS

A. Prison Pet Partnership (PPP)

This program operates at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor,Washington. Some of the benefits that the staff believes the PFT program provides includes:

  • something for an inmate to care for
  • lessons on care and responsibilities for life
  • job skills
  • assistance in getting in touch with one’s feelings
  • opportunity to feel better about oneself and the ability to accomplish their goals

This program matches unwanted dogs with inmates. The inmates feel they can relate to the dogs because they are unwanted, or have been abused or mishandled. Each cycle of the program lasts for three months and then the dogs are placed in homes. The potential owners of the trained dogs are screened thoroughly before the dogs are released to their care. Since the program began, very few dogs have been returned which is an indication of the successful training each dog received.

One of the inmates shared her thoughts on how the program has changed her. Before she was involved in the program she felt that no one cared about her, nor did she care for anyone else. However, after participating in the program, she recognized that people do care about her and she feels like "a somebody". As a result of her improved self esteem, she has set goals for herself that she is determined to achieve. After this inmate was released, she found a job grooming animals.

The inmates feel the animals help to break the barriers that exist between each other and generally tend to feel less defensive and more relaxed. Inmates who have been in the program for a longer period of time help the newer participants train their dogs. These women also train Service Dogs, though not all dogs become Service Dogs, nor do all women train them. These Service Dogs assist the physically disabled: for example, they have the ability to open and close doors for their owners and pick up dropped items when requested to do so. As with all programs, it is difficult for the women to let the dogs go to their new owners. This program permits the owners to bring the dogs in for boarding when they go on vacation and for additional training and grooming. Here, like in other facilities, the program promotes social interaction, responsibilities, and a feeling of achievement.