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When you are in prison, there is nothing better than getting to visit with your friends and family. A few hours with your loved ones can go a long way when it comes to your attitude and ability to survive prison life. I can’t tell you how much I looked forward to hearing my name called so I could go to the visiting room.
Of course, not all of my friends are human. My fur babiesㄧmy awesome cat, Dale, and my sweet puppy, Titusㄧare an important part of my world. I love seeing their sweet little faces when I wake up in the morning, but not so much when Titus needs to go out to potty, or Dale is knocking things off the table!
Many inmates have pets that they must leave behind when they get locked up, and that companionship is sorely missed. So, that leads us to the question: can dogs visit you in prison?
In this blog post I will cover:
Every prison is very strict when it comes to the rules of the visiting room. Allowing anyone to come inside the prison is a security risk, so visitors go through an approval process just to get on an inmate’s visiting list. Then, when they show up to the prison for a visit, visitors have to go through numerous searches to make sure they aren’t bringing in contraband.
There is also a strict dress code, specific rules about what you are allowed to bring into the visiting room, rules about how you conduct yourself inside the visiting room, and on top of that, you are always being monitored.
With so many restrictions, there is just no way they can allow a visitor to bring in a dog to a visiting room. However, there may be one exceptionㄧservice dogs. If a visitor requires a service dog, they might be able to get permission from the warden to bring the animal to a visit. This is extremely rare, though.
Even though visitors aren’t allowed to bring dogs to a visit, many inmates are still able to build relationships with canine companions thanks to programs like Puppies for Parole and Puppies Behind Bars. These programs allow selected inmates to raise and train a puppy to be a service dog, and then they are adopted out by a person in need of their services.
The puppy usually arrives at the prison at about 8-weeks old, and over the next few months they are trained to be service dogs for the disabled, elderly, and war veterans.
Some states also have programs for rescue dogs who need rehabilitation. The Marin Humane Society’s Pen Pals program at San Quentin matches low-security prisoners in need of work with rescue dogs, and for six months the inmate will help their dogs gain confidence, as well as learn basic obedience skills so they can be adopted by a forever family.
At the women’s prison in Missouri where I was incarcerated, they had the C.H.A.M.P. Assistance Dogs program which allowed some inmates to have temporary canine “roommates” that they trained as service animals for people with disabilities.
If you are worried about the treatment of dogs in prison, I can say from first-hand experience that these dogs are treated better than humans behind bars. The dogs on our camp had their own wing in a housing unit, a dog park outside the housing unit, and they ate better food than we did. They even had a Halloween parade where the trainers would dress their dogs up in little outfits and walk them around camp. It was pretty cute.
There is also an intensive screening process for inmates who want to be a part of the canine programs because they don’t want a dog in the hands of someone with a history of animal abuse or sexual crimes.
The canine programs in prison are some of the best programs to be a part of because those dogs are an inmate’s best friend. Prisoners get awesome experience in learning how to care for, train, and say goodbye to a dog, and it allows the inmate to do something to contribute to society.
The dogs also help relieve stress and provide companionship, which is hard to come by in prison. The canine programs can give inmates marketable job skills if they want a career as a dog trainer, groomer, or vet assistant.
An inmate might not be able to see their own dog during a visit, but many prisons do have a canine program that allows inmates to connect with these furry little creatures.
Do you know a canine who has graduated from a prison program? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: What Happens When Dogs Go To Prison? https://www.rover.com/blog/happens-dogs-go-prison/ C.H.A.M.P Website https://www.champdogs.org/index.php
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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