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Australia Retired greyhounds helping inmates at Mobilong and Adelaide Women's prisons get lives back on track

09:24  09 december  2021
09:24  09 december  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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Inmates say they benefit from the Greyhounds as Pets program as much as the dogs. (ABC News: Brant Cumming) © Provided by ABC NEWS Inmates say they benefit from the Greyhounds as Pets program as much as the dogs. (ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Josh says the harsh realities of prison life are inescapable, except for when he spends time with his four-legged ray of sunshine, Rosie.

"Dogs aren't judgemental like people," he said, kneeling alongside his dog Rosie.

"They don't care what you've done in the past, they don't care who you are as a person as long as you have a good relationship with them, so it means a lot to us."

At Mobilong Prison in Murray Bridge, an hour's drive from Adelaide, 18 inmates have been paired with a former racing greyhound as part of the Greyhounds as Pets (GAP) program — the largest foster program of its kind in the world.

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Under the program, prisoners have been given the job of caring for and domesticating former racing dogs before they are offered up for adoption.

"The greyhound adoption program is probably the best job in the jail," Josh said.

"There is a waiting list obviously because everybody wants to do it."

Josh said inmates got just as much out of the program as their four-legged friends.

"It helps us a lot with obviously mental health issues if we're depressed being stuck here, having a dog to sort of nurture and cuddle and look after helps us out a lot," he said.

"We get trusted a lot here with them and we don't want to lose that placement here.

"It helps us keep a good head on our shoulders and have something to maintain here and have something to take pride in."

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Greyhound Racing SA requires owners to rehome their dogs once they have left the track.

The Adelaide's Women's Prison is also involved in the GAP program and has rehabilitated 200 dogs since 2013.

Inmates can study a certificate two in animal studies as part of the GAP program.

Department for Correctional Services deputy chief executive Hayley Mills said the mood of the prisons completely changed when the dogs were around.

"The program brings out that nurturing side in the men and that's really important," she said.

"The men who are in our care here are fathers, they're partners, they're sons, and that [nurturing is] such an important skill to take back out with them."

This week the GAP program celebrated a special milestone. Its 400th dog, Nipper, has completed her time and is now ready to be adopted.

Correctional Services Minister Vincent Tarzia said the program was hugely beneficial to the industry and the prisoners.

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"They have to feed these animals, they have to nurture these animals, they have to care for them, they have to walk for them," he said.

"It's obviously very hard to go from a race track environment back into a domestic type setting.

"After these animals do graduate, they're certainly in a much better position to go into the outside world."

Josh said it was hard not to get too attached to the dogs knowing they would leave, but he said having someone else to care for provided routine and it was hugely important while behind bars.

"A lot of people here … didn't have much of a life on the outside before they come to jail. They're used to doing one thing in their life," he said.

"To come here and get a job with the greyhounds trains not only the dogs, but it trains us up for living a normal life.

"It benefits us just as much as it benefits the dogs, that's for sure."

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