A program that lets Missouri inmates prepare abandoned or unwanted dogs for adoption has reached a milestone.
The Missouri Department of Corrections’ Puppies for Parole program has celebrated its’ 3,000th adoption since it began in 2010. A ceremony was held Thursday at the Eastern Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne, Terre. Jan, the 3,000th dog to be adopted from the program, was adopted by Amelia Blanton of St. Louis.
Corrections Director George Lombardi was there.
“We had no idea when we started this obviously that we would reach such a tremendous number of dogs that we’ve basically saved from either being euthanized or living their life out in a cage,” said Lombardi.
Lombardi said the program primarily receives dogs that are unadoptable.
“We get dogs that have to be carried in because they are so scared of anything and everybody, dogs that are on three limbs, dogs that are blind, dogs that are deaf … and the guys and the ladies have turned them into wonderful pets,” said Lombardi.
The program is funded solely by donations and is in 19 of the 20 state prisons in Missouri. Lombardi said it’s the largest corrections dog program in the country.
Lombardi said there are multiple benefits to the program.
“It saves the dogs, helps the shelters, makes a transformative process for offenders, makes our prisons just a little bit safer and a little less tense,” said Lombardi. “The dogs have an enormous impact, not only on the handlers, but they walk around the yard and everybody gets a smile on their face, everybody is a little bit happier.”
Lombardi said not only do the dogs become great pets, but the offenders are changed as well.
“They learn responsibility, they learn compassion, which is a quality often missing in offenders, they learn cooperation between and among themselves,” said Lombardi. “So, these are really important qualities that when they are released will serve them well.”
Two offenders work with each dog to train them to pass the AKC’s Canine Good Citizenship test. Lombardi said the dogs are put up for adoption generally after 8 weeks of training or once they are ready to become pets. Lombardi said those who have been found guilty of animal abuse are not eligible for the program, but all other offenders including those with a death sentence have the opportunity to participate
“The thing about dogs is, they don’t care who you are or what you did, they’re going to love you anyway as long as you’re good to them,” said Lombardi. “As long as their behavior is appropriate in the prison over time, so that the case worker can make an assessment of that, and an accurate one, then they are allowed to participate.”