Prison Pet Partnership gives inmates the opportunity to learn valuable pet care vocational skills to use in finding employment when they resume their lives outside of prison. In addition to training, boarding, and grooming dogs, inmates also gain clerical skills by working in our office. To ensure that they receive ample experience in the pet care industry, inmate employees are required to spend a minimum of two years with us.
All of the animals in the program are from animal rescue organizations, allowing them to lead lives of service rather than be destroyed. Our service dogs are able to respond to the needs of individuals who experience seizures, those who live with various illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, and those who have multiple disabilities by assisting them in their daily activities and giving them increased independence. According to Assistance Dogs International, the cost of providing high quality training for Service/Seizure Response/Therapy Dogs is approximately $10,000 per animal. It takes approximately eight months to train these dogs, and only one out of every 15 to 20 dogs selected for our program has the intelligence and temperament necessary to become a service or therapy dog. Dogs who do not make it as service dogs are trained in basic obedience, which allows them to be placed in the community as Paroled Pets. Please view our adoptable Paroled Pets at Petfinder.com.
Although part of the agency’s funding support is derived through a contract with the Department of Corrections, the program is primarily supported by foundations, animal welfare organizations, and by individual donors. Our boarding and grooming service for the local community also provides the program with sustaining funding support.
An active policy making volunteer Board of Directors monitors our programmatic progress in cooperation with the program staff. Approximately 30 volunteers currently assist us by taking the dogs out into the community for important socialization training prior to placement with their recipients. This training includes such things as learning to accompany their recipients into elevators, restaurants, doctor’s offices, grocery stores, and other public facilities.
Studies on the human-animal bond have reached the not surprising conclusion that humans benefit from the unqualified love and acceptance that only animals can provide. Animals need to be loved in return. The shared bond between our dogs, their trainers, and above all, their eventual owners, provides a feeling of satisfaction that directly contributes to the mental and physical wellness of all who are involved.
This is the essence of what Prison Pet Partnership has provided over the years to the inmates who work with the dogs, the dogs who are given the chance to lead lives of service, and the individuals with disabilities who receive the well-trained dogs to help increase their level of independence.
Prison Pet Partnership enriches the lives of inmates, homeless animals and the community through the human-animal bond.
Our mission allows us to grow in many directions, using our foundation of rescuing and training homeless animals and providing job skills training to women inmates. We continue to rescue, train and place service, therapy and companion animals, and also provide animal-assisted therapeutic visits to local convalescent centers, and help students improve reading skills by having dogs listen while children read aloud. We have boarding and grooming facilities to teach women inmates job skills, and we also help inmates write resumes, and practice interviewing skills. Prison Pet Partnership scouts for job opportunities in the community in which an inmate will be released, and provide support through job placement as she transitions back into the community.
Prison Pet Partnership began in 1982 as part of Tacoma Community College’s inmate education program, and became an independent Washington nonprofit corporation on May 30, 1990. We are registered with the IRS as a 501c3.
Prison Pet Partnership’s facility is located on the grounds of the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, Washington. The program is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. The day-to-day operations are the responsibility of an Executive Director, a Training Coordinator, and a Vocational Education Coordinator with support provided by a Program Assistant. Inmate employees support the boarding kennel, the grooming service, and service dog training.
- We value compassion and respect for people and animals.
- We value commitment to service.
- We value education and growth.
- We value building partnerships in a community.
Prison Pet Partnership, operating within the Washington State criminal justice system, has been a model for the nation in the rehabilitation of inmates. It began in 1981 as the result of a collaborative effort between Sister Pauline, a Dominican nun, and the late Dr. Leo Bustad, former chair of Washington State University’s veterinary program, who believed that inmate rehabilitation could be facilitated by the human-animal bond. Sister Pauline and Bustad worked cooperatively with Washington State University, Tacoma Community College, and the Washington State Department of Corrections to create this innovative program within the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW).
Prison Pet Partnership now helps inmates at WCCW learn to train, groom and board dogs from within the prison walls. Since its inception, the program has placed over 700 dogs in the Pacific Northwest as Service, Seizure, Therapy Dogs, and in families as Paroled Pets.
In 1986, Prison Pet Partnership was one of the top ten finalists for Innovations in State and Local Government recognized by the Ford Foundation and the John F. Kennedy School of Business at Harvard University.
In 1997, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf came to Prison Pet Partnership to host “What’s Right in America” for NBC. He felt that our program exemplified how the prison system can aid in the rehabilitation of inmates while serving the community at large.