The Safe Harbor Prison Dog Program is a wonderful organization that gives both man and man’s best friend a second chance at life. Started back in 2004, the organizers behind Safe Harbor had this lofty goal in mind: “to save as many dogs as we can, provide them with safe harbor, and give them a second chance at life.” Safe Harbor rescues dogs that have been mistreated, abandoned, and sent to high-kill animal shelters across the Midwest. Once rescued, they are sent to the Lansing Correctional Facility, where 100 inmates, trained as animal handlers, foster the dogs.
The prisoners take a tremendous amount of pride in their work and are able to achieve wonders with the dogs they are given. They spend the first part of their relationship socializing the dogs. Once a trusting relationship is developed, they move onto house and leash training, followed by learning basic commands. It’s a mutually beneficial situation for both the dogs and the prisoners who spend a significant amount of time together bonding and even bunking.
The end goal of the prison training is to be able to integrate these once abandoned and unwanted dogs back into society through adoption. Some of the prisoners even have the opportunity to give their dog to their own families. Safe Harbor has a great relationship with the Petsmart in Shawnee, KS where adoptions for these dogs are held almost every Saturday.
The Safe Harbor Prison Dogs and prisoners are marvelous examples of the possibilities of rehabilitation, and I hope to see more programs like this start in other parts of the country. It seems the bond that develops between rescue dog and prisoner (two of America’s most unwanted) make this such an effective program. Whatever is at work here, I think it’s a humane and an exceptionally kind way of giving man and dog a second chance.