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Pups and Teen Inmates Alike Benefit From New Rikers Program That Brings Shelter Dogs to the Island

Puppies bring belly rubs to Rikers Island.

Proving once again that dog is man’s best friend, a partnership between New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex and the city’s Animal Care and Control organization provides healing to both dog and man. The special foster program, which allows teen offenders ages 16—17 to care for and train shelter dogs while the dogs await adoption on the outside, teaches the young men responsibility, discipline, affection as well as providing them with much needed love and affection. The foster pups, in turn, get a stable place to call home with grateful and loving caretakers.

Image by Wiki Commons user Computerjoe

The pups are screened and rotated through the program, with new canine participants swapping in when others are adopted. According to The Dodo, Animal Care and Control chooses dogs who they believe would thrive in a bustling, noisy environment. The shelter then readies the pups by playing recordings of gates opening and closing and other “prison noises” ahead of their move.

Teens who would like to be caretakers are also vetted. The application process mirrors a job or school application, with inmates submitting references and going through a series of interviews before being chosen.

Pups and teens attend obedience classes together. Additionally, fellow housing unit members are expected to assist in the grooming and walking of the “house dog.”

The initiative is an excellent example of symbiotic therapy, and is definitely not without precedent. Inmate and at-risk youth dog fostering programs have existed for years now, and are proven to bring comfort to all involved, furry or not.

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