Correctional Service Canada
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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Pet Facilitated Therapy in Correctional Institutions


C. Animal Selection

Animal selection should be based on staff and patient preference, availability of space (both physical and social), type of population housed, care and cost considerations, type of program expected, and, of course, operative legal statutes. As a general rule of thumb, the types of animals that require the most care and planning also offer the most potential for personal bonding and therapeutic application. (Cusack and Smith, 1984)

Types of animals used in the institutions vary depending on several factors. For example, due to space limitations, some institutions may only be able to house birds or rabbits in cages. Dogs or horses require more space and money to train, groom and care for. If the PFT program is aimed at supplying inmates with vocational skills for employment, "trainable" animals such as dogs or horses should be used.

To ensure the safety and health of everyone in the institution, the animals must be free of contagious illnesses and diseases. Animals being considered for the program must first undergo a series of tests to ensure they are healthy, and are given various vaccinations and monitored closely when they are in the program. A veterinarian conducts medical examinations on all the animals periodically. The handlers, staff, and inmates are instructed to notify the program coordinator of any symptoms of malaise or injury, regardless of how minor it may seem to be.