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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Pet Facilitated Therapy in Correctional Institutions


L. Ethics

People who participate in animal assistance programs are usually aware of issues surrounding animal rights, and many either support animal protection activities or consider themselves to be sensitive to these issues (Iannuzzi and Rowan, n.d.). In some PFT programs, animals may be taken out of their natural environment. For example, wild animals may be lacking adequate care in the wilderness. Humans take them out of their natural environment and put them into cages believing they have improved the animals’ lives. Caretakers sometimes forget that the animals may in fact be feeling uncomfortable in their new environment. As a result, some animals may die in their new environment and it puzzles the caretakers.

Arkow (1993) outlined the following ethical concerns for animals:

  • Potential for abuse: animals, particularly in a high-security institution, may be abused
  • Potential for fatigue: no standards are set regarding how long an animal should visit, or how many visits per day or week are recommended. However, it is widely recognized that residential animals must have respite and cannot be expected to be constantly "on duty." Nursing homes, in particular, maintain a higher ambient temperature which can add to the stress experienced by furry animals.
  • Coping with stress: each species, breed, and individual animal will have varying abilities to cope with the stresses required of interactions. These abilities must be considered.
  • Use of wild animals: several programs in particular (swimming with dolphins, simian helpers for quadriplegics) have been attacked for humane concerns in utilizing animals which may not be ideally acclimated to human interactions.
  • It is not common to think of animals as fatigued or stressed. This may be because their symptoms are not as obvious, especially to those who may not be familiar with animals. Inmates need to be taught what the signs are for a tired or stressed animal and how to effectively respond to the situation. The welfare of animals engaged in PFT programs is a crucial concern and should be given primary consideration when developing/implementing the program.