Saturday, May 2, 2009


The Sentient World of Animals

Prison Dog Program Benefits Inmates and Stray Dogs
By Hsinchu News Group, Formosa (Originally in Chinese)

Warden Huang and the stray dogs he cares for
Mr. Huang Rong-rui, the warden of Hsinchu Prison, loves dogs. After his pet dog died, he turned his attention to stray dogs, befriending the four-legged friends that wander around the prison premises. In time, the dogs began to show up regularly at a chosen site, waiting to be fed. Warden Huang once saw a TV program on how a US prison allowed inmates to raise and train stray dogs. This inspired him to create a first-of-its-kind prison in Formosa that offers shelter to stray animals and places inmates in charge of feeding, managing and training them. He hoped that through interaction with animals, inmates could learn self-control, emotion management and respect for life. The trained dogs could be made available for adoption and this would help take care of the problem of stray dogs as well.

The plan received immediate, overwhelming support from the Formosan Animal-Assisted Activity and Therapy Association (FAAATA), which helps choose suitable dogs from animal shelters and provides professional instruction to interested inmates on how to take care of them.

The inmates first built a kennel by welding scrap metals together. The prison then organized a training program for seven selected inmates who loved dogs or were experienced in raising dogs, and assigned a dog to each of them. Professional FAAATA instructors currently hold weekly classes for the inmates on dog-caring and training.

Over the past month, the dogs and their trainers have developed a loving relationship. The trainers work at the kennel from 9 to 4 each day, feeding, training, bathing and keeping the dogs free of bugs. Each of the dogs can now recognize his or her partner and perform according to instruction. The inmates have learned much from the program. One of the participants, Mr. Luo, said that although considerable effort was required to establish an affectionate and trusting relationship with a prison dog, he had mastered the special skills of taking care of, beautifying and training a dog. He plans to hone and make use of these skills after he is released from prison. The success of the Prison Dog plan has encouraged the prison to draw up plans for training drug dogs to prevent the smuggling of drugs into prison.

Though launched not long ago, the Prison Dog plan in Hsinchu has proved to be remarkably successful. Prisoners have regained self-confidence, assimilated the concept of loving animals, and learned to love themselves and respect life. Furthermore, the once abandoned but now professionally trained dogs are able to accompany aged inmates or those serving long prison terms to give them comfort and psychological support. They can also assist the prison staff in patrolling and ensuring prison security. In addition, they are available for adoption by other people. Hopefully the Prison Dog plan can be introduced to every prison in Formosa and benefit both inmates and stray dogs.

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