For years, well-vetted and well-deserving inmates at Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution had one reminder of the good life on the outside of the bars, loving animals.
Inmates took part in program that brought dogs and cats into the prison from the local Ohio Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals shelter in Lima, the former Allen County Humane Society.
They worked with these animals, sometimes nursing them to health or training them to be obedient. It was a natural match, people tossed aside by society to serve their penance and animals tossed aside by owners who simply didn’t want them anymore. From both sides, the introduction of love made a difference.
“This has been therapeutic for the inmates who participated in the programs. We’ve seen a positive effect on them,” said Cori Smith, deputy warden of special services at Allen-Oakwood.
Unfortunately, the Ohio SPCA feels differently now, ending the program, as announced earlier this week.
“I don’t feel it’s the right environment for us to be putting animals in and, frankly, I don’t believe our animals came back to us any better off” than they were prior to entering the prison program, said Noah Turner, director of the Lima shelter.
The impetus was a disturbing incident in late August at Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon. Officials found a dead dog from that prison’s program inside an inmate’s cell there. That incident at another prison involving another program caused the Ohio SPCA to rethink the program.
We urge the Ohio SPCA to rethink its decision. The reality is most prisons in the state have some kind of dog program, many of them training abandoned dogs for life with families.
Among them are Dogs 4 Warriors in Belmont Correctional Institution, Dash Rescue at Chillicothe Correctional Institution, ADOPT Pet Rescue at the Corrections Reception Center, Berea Animal Rescue at Lorain Correctional Institution, Fresh Start Canine/Feline Program at Madison Correctional Institution, Tender Loving Dog Care at Mansfield Correctional Institution, Animal Shelter Society at Marion Correctional Institution, Canine Care Program at Noble Correctional Institution, Canine Collective at North Central Correctional Complex, Under the Wing at Northeast Reintegration Center and Saving Pets One at a Time and Second Chance Companions at Southeastern Correctional Complex.
That’s an impressive list of correctional facilities believing in the power of animals and humans paired together for the rehabilitation and training of both of them.
There’s no reason the prison in Lima shouldn’t remain on this list. It’s not as if the community no longer has a problem with abandoned and surrenders cats and dogs, making the program unnecessary. No, it was a decision made based on a problem that happened in someone else’s program somewhere else.
If the Ohio SPCA doesn’t want to provide this service, we urge another well-meaning rescue organization in the region to step in and fill the void. The benefits are too great to let this type of program end, for both the animal and the inmate.