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Can You Have Pets in Prison?

Can You Have Pets in Prison?

Honestly, my pets are my children. My sweet little Shih Tzu Titus is now 4 years old and a snuggle champion. My cat Dale is 3 years old and he is the head of the household. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my pets and always joke that they are my emotional support animals. In fact, they helped me a lot in life after I got out of prison.

When I was in prison, having a pet was not an option. Still, I was able to see the adorable puppies on a regular basis. This is because the prison I’m in participates in the Puppies 4 Parole program. With that in mind, let’s get into today’s topic: Are pets allowed in prisons?

In this blog post, inmate Mistie Vance will cover the following topics:

  • Most Prisoners Don’t Have Pets
  • some prisons have dog training programs
  • Dog training program gives prisoners and animals a ‘second chance’

Most Prisoners Don’t Have Pets

If I had my way, every prisoner would have a pet. Not only are animals very therapeutic, but they are truly best friends. I mean, wouldn’t it be better to have a best friend who always listens unobtrusively, never tells you your mistakes, is willing to be affectionate when you want to, and has your back no matter what?

Not only that, caring for pets is a responsibility and god knows most of us in jail were not the most responsible people in a previous life! Unfortunately, I don’t make the rules, and my personal opinion doesn’t mean anything when it comes to things like keeping pets in prison.

different from the movie green mileThe inmates there had a rat named Mr. Bo Jangles, but in my ten plus years of incarceration, I’ve never seen anyone befriend a rodent. That’s not to say I haven’t tried it a few times at casinos, when cute little moles would pop out of their holes and look around.

I think I got pretty close to it once when I was bending over for a stretch and one came within inches of my finger, but I just couldn’t quite convince it I was good friend material. It’s not for lack of trying, I promise you!

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to see many creatures of God from afar. The cell where I lived for two and a half years faced a field, and every year I saw a doe playing with her fawn.

There are owls and bats on the cliffs, a red tailed hawk that often hunts mice in the yard, and many birds with their nests full of babies. Once, after a particularly heavy rain, I saw a large lobster crawl across the grass. Another time, I helped a toad escape when it was trapped in a fence. While I have never had a pet, I have loved many wonderful creatures.

some prisons have dog training programs

In some prisons, like the two I served in, they have a program called champion. A place for inmates to have service dogs and rescue dogs. Eligible offenders are trained on how to train a service dog or care for a rescue animal and are assigned a dog for a specific period of time.

Once the animals are fully trained, they are adopted and the criminal gets a new animal to train with. Trainers must not treat dogs like pets or compromise their training in any way. Some interaction with other inmates is permitted, but in a limited amount, at the discretion of the instructor. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, the program has been suspended for the safety of the animals.

Other prisons across the country have programs similar to CHAMP’s, which allow inmates to train service dogs. They have proven to be very successful with both prisoners and animals.

Dog training program gives prisoners and animals a ‘second chance’

The CHAMP program is an assistance dog training program. These women help raise and train dogs, from basic skills to advanced service dog skills. The dogs live in a trainer’s room in a special dormitory and accompany their trainers throughout the prison campus.

A woman I work with in the cafeteria is in the CHAMP program and she brings her dog to work every day.

All dogs were sourced from local animal shelters and received 10-12 weeks of basic skills and household etiquette training. This provides a “second chance” for the dogs to live in a good home forever, while also benefiting the inmates.

Convict trainers gain training experience by working with a large number of different breeds of dogs. They have the opportunity to help some fine dogs regain people’s trust and find the wonderful homes they deserve.

“In prison, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and feel powerless,” explains an inmate in the CHAMP program. “It’s lonely, even with about 1,800 women, you’re still alone. I have a small bundle of happiness to care for, teach and care for. He’s always happy to see me and thinks I’m beautiful first thing in the morning.”

Are pets allowed in prisons Well, definitely not furry quadrupeds! You’ll come across some snakes and a mouse or two. If you like creepy spiders or other annoying little insects and spiders, you might have success keeping a pet in prison. But for the rest of us, pets will have to wait for the free world. I can not wait anymore!

Do you know a prison-trained dog? Let us know in the comments below.

Inmate essay from Mistie Vance, Chillicothe Correctional Center

C.H.A.M.P Assistance Dogs