Thursday, October 30, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;45.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nbkn.png;2014-10-30 20:06:25
Monday, August 4, 2014

Prison project helps inmates and dogs

EAST LYME, Conn. – When Randi, an inmate at the York Correctional Institution, was selected in April to participate in The Red Dog Project, a program that gets rescue dogs ready for adoption, she wondered, “Am I emotionally ready? It’s a big responsibility.”

Randi, who is serving 2½ years for criminal violation of a restraining order, is a recovering drug addict and says she has been in abusive relationships most of her life. Because she had her own problems to deal with, she wondered if she could she help a dog that had its own issues. Randi soon discovered she could, and she learned more about herself in the process. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

EAST LYME, Conn. – When Randi, an inmate at the York Correctional Institution, was selected in April to participate in The Red Dog Project, a program that gets rescue dogs ready for adoption, she wondered, “Am I emotionally ready? It’s a big responsibility.”

Randi, who is serving 2½ years for criminal violation of a restraining order, is a recovering drug addict and says she has been in abusive relationships most of her life. Because she had her own problems to deal with, she wondered if she could she help a dog that had its own issues. Randi soon discovered she could, and she learned more about herself in the process.

“I learned how to be more responsible,” said Randi, whose last name was withheld per Department of Correction policy. “I learned to be accountable to something. Just like me, all they need is a little TLC.”

The Red Dog Project was introduced to the prison on Oct. 31 and has since helped 40 dogs find new homes.

Lorin Liesenfelt, founder of the Dog Days rescue group, runs the organization’s Red Dog Project. Dogs are pulled from shelters from within Connecticut as well as Georgia, which has shelters with high euthanasia rates. She teaches the inmates to handle the dogs and get them ready for adoption.

“These dogs were literally hours from being euthanized,” said Liesenfelt. “The women here are so patient and understanding. They want the dogs to succeed.”

The inmates’ rooms are equipped with baby gates and dog crates for their companions. Each week, the dog gets a new handler. The purpose for doing that is twofold - it socializes the dog to different people and the inmates don’t get too attached. The average stay for a dog is four to six weeks. The dogs are put up for adoption at an event held once a month at the Tractor Supply Co. store in Old Saybrook.

Correction Officer Michael DiLoreto, who is a Red Dog facility coordinator, said the program can have up to 10 inmate handlers. Low-security level inmates must be free of any discipline tickets to be considered for the program.

Liesenfelt visits the prison at least twice a week to check on the dogs’ progress.

Red Dog isn’t the only animal program within the Department of Correction. Inmates also participate in other animal rescue programs, including the Second Chance Large Animal Rehabilitation Facility, a collaborative effort between the state Department of Agriculture and the DOC that rescues farm animals that have been taken from their owners.

Correction Officer Steve Curran, dog program coordinator for the department, said one of the men’s prisons also has a greyhound socialization and adoption program. Curran said DOC Commissioner James Dzurenda and his wife have rescued dogs and are big supporters of the program. He said the Red Dog Project does not cost the state any money, as all the expenses are paid for by the organization.

The Red Dog Project was named after a rescue pit bull mix in Bridgeport who had parvovirus, mange and other illnesses. The dog lost all of its fur, exposing its red skin. And from then on, any dog that needed a little more care has been deemed a “Red Dog,” Liesenfelt said.

Both Curran and Liesenfelt said the collaboration has been a success.

“I never thought I’d say that I’m excited to go to prison,” said Liesenfelt. “It’s amazing to see both the dogs and women come out of their shells.”

DiLoreto said the offenders can participate in the program until they’re released from prison. He said he has seen positive changes in the women’s behavior.

“They see value and beauty in every dog,” he said, “and hopefully they see it within themselves as well.”