On May 30th, 2018, the Santa Marie Valley Humane Society in Santa Barbara, CA announced a hopeful new program. The aim is to re-socialize both inmates and shelter dogs and cats in their county.
The program will launch when the Northern Branch Jail Project has been completed, sitting on 50 acres of land. Inspiration for this undertaking was due to a visit with the Pawsitive Change inmate dog training program in nearby California City.
Pawsitive Change, started in 2016, saves dogs from being euthanized and pairs them up with an inmate within California’s prisons. This amazing group’s goal on their Facebook page, “Is to reduce inmate recidivism by providing them a viable skill, while at the same time saving dogs lives.”
With the support of the SMV Humane Society the team hope to now add the local needy felines to the program. Ideally the shelter expects to save an additional 150 cats and dogs a year.
The Humane Society’s website explains that “About 6 shy or fearful cats are being planned to be co-housed with female inmates for a 30 day socialization period. Living 24 /7 with the female inmates will acclimate the cats to unfamiliar people.”
Numerous animal and inmate programs across the United States and proven very successful. These range from wild horse training and fly fishing in Colorado, training puppies to become service animals in Washington and teaching abused and neglected cats in New York to open up to humans again.
Another group in Massachusetts works with more “wild” animals such as birds, foxes and raccoons to help inmates learn respect and compassion for others, no matter their species.
Inmates who are chosen to participate in these programs can gain the confidence to open up to another soul. They may be experiencing conditional love for perhaps the first time in their lives. Skills learned can also help them in future job searches when re-acclimating to life outside of the judicial system.
The animals are then ready to be adopted out to their furever homes with chance at a safe, loving life.
The humans must be approved for these programs however and WANT to be part of the rehabilitation opportunity. As ideal as these programs are for both parties, the animals’ welfare is first and foremost. These deserving creatures do not have the voice or choice of how their lives have turned out.
The success stories from previous inmates are absolutely heartwarming and fuel the continuation of these programs. Marleysmutts.org, the website for Pawsitive Change, shares a few of the inspiring quotes from participants.
“We live inside a place where we can’t show our emotion–it’s considered a weakness. But with this program, we can feel–give and received affection. We become cold in here, much more cold then when we entered. But these dogs give us a chance to be human.”
-Inmate Participant, CycleII
“I have laughed more in the last three months then I have in the last 13 years I’ve been incarcerated.”
-Inmate Graduate, Cycle I