The Herald Bulletin

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Community

February 22, 2014

Maleah Stringer: Prison partnership helps animals and humans alike

In 2006 the Animal Protection League and the National Greyhound Foundation, out of Florida, formed a partnership to be the pilot program in Indiana for the Second Chance at Life Greyhound Prison Program. The National Greyhound Foundation's director, Beverly Sebastian, hired me to run her program in five Indiana prisons.

We had watched her promotional video about the program and we all fell, hook line and sinker. We all had greyhounds, loved greyhounds, wanted to save greyhounds and this seemed like an answer to our prayers. Except we kind of forgot we had to go in the prison and work with the inmates. It all started off as simply a way to save these precious dogs. The inmates were simply a means to an end. In the beginning, that is.

I knew about as much about working with inmates and the Indiana Department of Corrections system as I do brain surgery. Fortunately, the staff at the Correctional Industrial Facility took me under their wing and gave me a crash course. They were and continue to be wonderful to me and the Animal Protection League.

The first time I went "inside" I was scared witless. I had a panic attack when I heard the gate lock behind me and I couldn't get out. Beverly was watching me; not one to tolerate weakness, she told me she didn't think I had what it took.The inmates were watching as well, laughing at my feeble attempts to get out the locked gate while sweating profusely and gasping for air. Great first impression. I somehow found the courage to do this program and, in effect, changed my own life.

When they decided to concentrate the program in Florida, we made a proposal to use shelter dogs from our shelter in the Correctional Industrial Facility. The first shelter dogs went in in 2008. This expanded with the 9 Lives shelter cat prison program and the Saving Max prison foster program.

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