Correctional Service Canada
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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Pet Facilitated Therapy in Correctional Institutions


J. An Unsuccessful Program

The PFT program at San Quentin was terminated in 1976 when authorities decided that the cats kept by the inmates were becoming too much of a problem. (Arkow, 1993). The number of cats had continued to increase over time until there were hundreds around the institution. Some were individual pets and others survived by general scavenging (Guthrie, 1977). San Quentin’s public information officer, W.A. Merkle explained:

Inmates were allowed to keep stray cats, but as the number of cats grew, many inmates complained of the odour. The program was poorly supervised and attention was never directed toward selection criteria or whether the practice should even have been allowed. The cats had been randomly acquired, there were no controls, and the animals became a source of antagonism among inmates. Problems continued to mount, and the cats were finally removed in 1976.

Any program, despite the best of intentions, can flounder if not properly supervised and if objections of non-pet-lovers are not considered.