Puppies for Parole is a unique Missouri Department of Corrections program made possible through partnerships with animal shelters and animal advocate groups statewide – like the Bollinger County Stray Project. Selected offenders have the opportunity to become trainers to rescue dogs in the program. Offenders work with the dogs teaching them basic obedience skills and properly socializing the animals, making them more adoptable. Once the dogs have successfully completed the program, they will be adopted through their original shelter.
Puppies for Parole began in Missouri on February 1, 2010, with two dogs taking up residence at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. In October of the same year, just a few months after the inception of the program, Puppies for Parole received the 2010 Governor’s Award for Quality and Productivity in the Innovation category. Currently, nineteen of Missouri’s twenty prisons are involved in the program, with over 1,500 canines being trained behind bars. The only state facility that does not participate is Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center. Inmates usually do not stay at that site long enough to become involved.
After being processed through diagnostics and “hitting a camp,” state prison inmates are taken through orientation. Besides becoming acquainted with rules and procedures, they are also given information about the Puppies for Parole program. Being a handler is a volunteer position, and there are qualifications an inmate must meet in order to work with a dog. Requirements include not having any animal or sex abuse charges and no conduct violations within the facility for the past 90 days. Two inmates are assigned to each dog, and both are responsible for training and making sure the animal’s daily needs are met.
There are multiple benefits to this program. Puppies for Parole gives offenders the skills necessary to support successful rehabilitation and reentry, ultimately improving public safety. At the same time, this is an opportunity for the offenders to re-pay Missouri communities and repair some of the debts caused by their crimes. We have seen this program have a profound effect on the inmates and staff, increasing the safety and security of the facility.
The program also saves dogs’ lives. Many dogs that were unwanted and would have been euthanized have found forever homes through the program. More than 1,000 dogs have graduated from the program and have been adopted. Some of these dogs were specially trained to work with the disabled, special needs children, veterans and mental health patients.
Finally, Puppies for Parole uses no general revenue and operates solely on private donations and donations from offender organizations. We are proud to support this program and are taking steps to actively participate. Your donations for the purchase of training materials would be most appreciated for this worthwhile cause!