Bad dog. No canine wants a terrible label, one that crushes hopes of becoming a pet in a loving family. For some rowdy shelter dogs in Idaho, their best chance for a home is to go to jail.
The Inmate Dog Alliance Project of Idaho (IDAPI) was launched by the Idaho Humane Society and in 10 years has paired prisoners with more than 1,500 dogs. “We have dogs in three prisons,” says Stephanie Leth who is a program director for IDAPI. “We take young puppies out there and we’ve taken dogs as old as 7 or 8 with a lot of bad habits. They’re all capable of change, just like people.”
Inmates must apply to be trained as dog trainers, and are selected based in part on their own good behavior behind bars. Shelter dogs are then assigned to live in the cell blocks with their inmate along with other IDAPI dogs. Leth says, “Taking them out to the prisons where they’re getting nurturing and one-on-one attention and care and training has a huge impact on the dog’s overall happiness and therefore adoptability.”
The IDAPI program taps into a unique commonality between shelter dog and incarcerated man. “The guys relate to them a lot,” says Leth. “They also understand the stress of being locked up.” The program has proven not only to help dogs learn to break unruly habits, being with the dogs has a positive effect on the men. “Some of these guys have never had to be responsible for anything...so they’re learning about responsibility, they’re also learning to connect, they’re learning empathy, patience.”
Click for more about IDAPI.
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