Rescue Dogs Saved by Prisoners, and Vice Versa

The Red Dog Project matches rescue dogs with prisoners in an effort to rehabilitate them both.

By Cari Jorgensen | Posted: August 4, 2014, 5:30 p.m. EDT

Anyone who has been around rescue dogs knows there is an adjustment period – a time frame in which these pets need to get ready for adoption. Some are afraid, distrusting while others show aggression or destructive behavior.

In an effort to help ready rescue dogs for their next step and forever homes, The Red Dog Project is collaborating with the York Correctional Institution in Niantic, Connecticut. Inmates at the facility care for, love and rehabilitate the dogs so that they can have the best chance at adoption. The dogs chosen for the project are taken from various kill shelters in Connecticut and Georgia; some are mere hours away from euthanasia. Through this project, which began October 31, 2013, 40 dogs have found new homes.




Dog Days rescue group founder, Lorin Liesenfelt, runs the Red Dog Project. She visits the prison twice a week at minimum and teaches the inmates how to handle the dogs and ready them for adoption. Inmates in low-level security who have no disciplinary tickets are eligible to participate.

"The women here are so patient and understanding,” Liesenfelt told the Houston Chronicle. "They want the dogs to succeed.”

During her visits, Liesenfelt gently encourages the inmates on how to get a somewhat bored dog more interested in walking, and the inmates get to give the dogs treats when he performs successfully.

One inmate, Randi, questioned her emotional readiness when she was selected to participate. Serving time for violating a restraining order, Randi had her own problems to deal with, which included drug addiction and past abusive relationships. Being selected as part of the project allowed Randi to learn responsibility and how to be accountable for something other than herself.

Another inmate, Tiffany, believes that the dogs save them as much as they save the dogs. She sees the project as therapy for the inmates and finds saving a life very rewarding.

However, the inmates are not given the chance to get too attached to any one dog. While their rooms contain dog crates and baby gates, each week they get a different dog. This way, the dogs socialize with more than one person during their four-to-six-week stay.

The purpose is to rehabilitate the dogs; the hope is that both dogs and inmates will prosper.

The Red Dog Project got its name from a rescued pit bull mix that had mange and parvovirus, among other health issues. The dog’s conditions resulted in the loss of fur, revealing red skin. Now every dog in need of a little more TLC than others is called a Red Dog.

Have you ever helped a "red dog”? Let us know in the comments below.

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