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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Pet Facilitated Therapy in Correctional Institutions

D. Background -A Brief Overview

i) PFT in Prisons

There are many prison pet programs in existence in such countries as Canada, United States, England, Scotland, Australia, and South Africa. In Canada, there is an active PFT program active at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia, and another about to be re-implemented in the Burnaby Correctional Center for Women. At Nova, Pawsitive Directions aims to introduce women inmates to the basics of dog husbandry and training (Logan, 1996). As well, since 1992, the Burnaby Correctional Center for Women (BCCW) in British Columbia has had a canine program. It has recently been reviewed and modified in order to re-establish the program at that institution.

The types of animals used and the format of the program varies widely. Animals used in the various PFT programs include mice, guinea pigs, birds, fish, horses, cats and dogs, farm animals, wild animals, domestic animals, and exotic animals; though dogs are the most common. Pets provide unconditional love and acceptance; they offer spontaneous affection and undying loyalty (Cusack, 1988). Offenders often experience loneliness as an impact of incarceration; and animals have been shown to significantly reduce feelings of isolation and frustration (Moneymaker and Strimple, 1991).

Some prisons establish the program for the sole benefit of the inmates (e.g. the PAL program in Lorton, Virginia) while others implement PFT with the added goal of saving unwanted animals. (e.g. Friends For Folks program in Lexington, Oklahoma). Descriptions of these programs will be provided in the section entitled Therapeutic Aspects. An overview of the different types of programs is presented in below.



Visitation Programs

Companion animals brought by humane society or non-profit organization

Wildlife Rehabilitation Programs

Inmates care for injured wildlife which are then released

Livestock Care Programs

Calf raising by juvenile offenders

Fish breeding, livestock care

Pet Programs

Companion animals owned and cared for by individual inmates

Assistance Animal Socialization Programs

Guide or hearing dogs/puppies raised by inmates

Vocational & Community Service Programs

Inmates care for wild horses

Inmates groom and train companion and assistance dogs

The following is a list of PFT programs successfully implemented in correctional institutions and still active today:


Name of Program


Pawsitive Directions, Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia


Burnaby Correctional Center for Women (BCCW) Canine Program in Burnaby, British Columbia

United States

Prison-Pet Partnership Program (PPPP), Washington State Correction Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor, WA


Friends For Folks Program, Lexington Correctional Center in Lexington, Oklahoma


People-Animals Love (PAL) Program, District of Columbia Correctional Facility in Lorton, Virginia


The Garth Prison Pet Program in Lancashire


Community Services Aquatic Club, Saughton Prison in Edinburgh


Guide Dog Program, Beechworth Training Prison in Beechworth, Victoria


Pets as Therapy Program (PAT), Adelaide Women’s Prison in Northfield, South Australia

South Africa

Companion Animal Programs, Department of Correctional Services

An overview of some of the PFT programs in correctional institutions are described in Appendix I