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    Greyhounds Find a Second Chance in Australian Women's Prison Adoption Program
Greyhounds Find a Second Chance in Australian Women's Prison Adoption Program

Greyhounds Find a Second Chance in Australian Women's Prison Adoption Program

"My dog is the best, he’s so smart, just look at him!” - when the owner of Sherr, a two-year-old dog, says this, her eyes shine. It seems that Sherr thinks the same about Linda, he jumps onto her lap, tries to lick her face and hands, showing with all his appearance how endlessly he loves his mistress.

Correspondent Benita Kolovos told an unusual story about the relationship between a man and a dog in her publication in The Guardian.

The fact is that Linda is not the owner of the animal. She is a prisoner in a women's colony-settlement. And Scherr is not just any dog, but a retired racing greyhound.

The program first began in 2007 at the Dürringil men's prison. In 2009, it was continued, and more successfully, in Tarrengover, a women's penal colony with 78 places, 130 km from Melbourne. Here, Linda and other women adapt former dog athletes to normal life as pets, after which they are given to families for adoption. By April 2024, approximately 600 dogs are expected to graduate from the program.

Sherr is the fourteenth dog Linda has fostered in the last 12 months. She still remembers her first greyhound and says that after the breakup she didn’t even want to think about any other. But then they brought a new dog, their eyes met - and that special connection was established between them that makes a person and a dog close friends.

“I love watching dogs and seeing how they change. And how our girls change thanks to communication with them.”

Aoife Johnston, the correctional officer, says the program is extremely popular with inmates and has a long waiting list. “Of course,” she says, “participation in the program provides an opportunity to develop new skills, the girls’ self-esteem grows, and they begin to walk with their heads held high. They solve complex problems and become more confident by building trusting relationships with dogs.”

Sam White, program manager at the colony, says the selection process for the full-time nursing assistant position is rigorous, with applicants writing a resume and going through interviews. The main criterion for entering the program is, of course, a love for animals. The reasons that brought women here are not taken into account.

Every month and a half, 6 greyhounds who have completed their sports careers are brought to the facility. The guardian's task is to teach them to live outside the racetrack and obey commands. “The dogs are taught the simplest things, like not jumping on people and not barking at other dogs. They accustom them to a home environment, the noise of household appliances, and stairs. And to the fact that you can sit quietly with the owner on the sofa.” White notes the excellent work of the guardians, thanks to their diligence after the end of the program, about 90% of the greyhounds immediately find new owners.

Enver Erdogan, Victoria's Minister of Correctional Services, highlights the fact that women who worked in the program adapt more easily to normal life after release. They have an increased chance of getting a job because they have knowledge and practical skills in animal care. Former guardians include this on their resume and may apply for grooming jobs at veterinary clinics or greyhound adoption agencies.

Georgie Purcell, MP for Animal Justice, is also an enthusiastic supporter of this extraordinary programme. “The important thing is that interacting with animals makes people kinder, making ex-offenders less likely to reoffend and more likely to live happy lives.”

The rate of overbreeding in the greyhound racing industry is alarming. Instead of addressing this problem within the industry, they are trying to blame it on the people who adopt greyhounds, this is wrong. Purcell suggested involving more community organizations in the program. A community initiative has outperformed the official greyhound adoption program for the fifth year in a row. According to the Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) 2022-23 report, 2,688 greyhounds were adopted into families after retirement, 1,606 of which were cared for by community organizations.

GRV attributes the difficulty in greyhound adoption to the country's rising cost of living. Despite this, the industry's growth rate is stable. There are 4000 greyhound puppies registered to race in Victoria in 2022-23, according to the latest GRV report. During the same time, 382 dogs were euthanized, which is slightly less than during the previous reporting period.

And Linda's life goes on as usual. She hopes to work in the program for the remainder of her tenure at Tarrengower. Linda admits that there are sometimes days when the only thing that gets her out of bed is the thought of her dog. “My last greyhound was so silly, she tried to bathe in a bowl of drinking water. Funny little girl, I adored her.” “Of course, like all people, I have moments of despair. At such moments, the thought that I can always spend time with a dog, my friend who always waits and loves unselfishly, supports me. And life is much easier after this.”


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