1986 Finalist
State of Washington
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

Kathy Quinn was a citizen who, through her work as a trainer and photographer of dogs, had freed herself from a life pattern of incarceration in mental institutions. As a result, she suggested to local dog trainers that a program be initiated in which inmates would train dogs to aid the disabled. A proposal was subsequently developed and presented to the superintendent of the Women’s Correctional Facility by the People Pet Partnership Program of the Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine.

The Prison Pet Partnership Program was designed to address, first, the problem of unmet needs and negative personal traits that led to the behavior for which inmates of the Purdy Corrections Center for Women were incarcerated as convicted felons. Low self-esteem, lack of a sense of responsibility, difficulty in relating to others, feelings of being unloved and unaccepted, lack of marketable job skills, and insufficient motivation and opportunity to develop acceptable behavior patterns are among the many obstacles to a successful return to society for these women. The program was designed to help inmates develop vocational skills and feelings of self-worth, achievement, and other-centeredness as they achieve training goals, cooperate with others, and perform a vital humanitarian service for disabled recipients of trained dogs. This program provides motivation and an opportunity to learn acceptable behavior patterns, as well as helps meet each woman's need for acceptance and affection through the emotional bonding between her and her dog. The program inherently addresses other significant challenges: society's need to assist felons become law-abiding, self-supporting citizens; the needs of elderly, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged persons for well-trained companion and service (aide) dogs; and the problem of homeless dogs that are routinely put to death. 

The most important measures used to evaluate the success of the Prison Pet Partnership Program are the numbers of inmate participants as well as the number of dogs placed with disabled owners. In 1984, 40 inmates participated in the program for a total of 3,529 hours and trained 35 dogs who were then placed in the homes of disabled persons in need. In 1985-1986, 45 inmate participants logged 3,744 in dog-training hours, an effort which resulted in the placement of 31 trained canines.