Enriching the lives of dogs, inmates, and adopters…
Through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Corrections, inmates at Virginia correctional centers – Buckingham Correctional Center, Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, and Lunenburg Correctional Center – Pixie’s Pen Pals works to train and socialize rescue dogs with the guidance and instruction from two professional dog trainers. FETCH a Cure’s Pixie’s Pen Pals program not only lowers the rate of euthanasia in Virginia’s city dog shelters, but also provides life skills to inmates. Our rescue dogs chosen for the program come from the Southside SPCA, Goochland County Animal Control, and Richmond Animal Care and Control. On average, 90 dogs are rescued and placed into loving homes every year through Pen Pals!
The Pen Pals program promotes inmate rehabilitation while increasing positive communication and interaction between correctional center staff and the rest of the inmate population. Inmate handlers learn viable job skills and some have gone on to become professional dog trainers following their release. By working cooperatively to help the animals, the inmates learn responsibility, patience, and emotional confidence among many other character building qualities that improve and enhance external relationships. These skills and attributes are acquired while training a dog that may not have had a chance for a happy life. Every time a dog leaves the program to go its new home, the inmate handler feels a sense of accomplishment and pride that they have given back to their community in a positive manner, leaving a smile on both ends of the leash.
Our trainers, Kasey Herrera and Katie Locks, devote their time (and sometimes their own homes) to our Pen Pals program! The trainers visit their assigned correctional centers weekly to work with each dog and inmate on issues they may be having. They also work with the inmates regarding ongoing education when it comes to dog training, which often results in the inmates asking for more and more literature on dog behavior and training. Katie, JD, and Kasey also think up creative solutions for training dogs in the more restrictive prison environment. With their ongoing involvement in the Pen Pals dogs’ lives, we are also able to offer behavioral support after adoption. Our trainers often stay in touch with handlers who have been released and gone on to have careers in pet care and training.
Pixie’s Pen Pals is a program of the former Save Our Shelters. FETCH was chosen to run this program after the Save Our Shelters organization dissolved in 2010. The program continues on with FETCH a Cure, in honor of Pixie Williams, former director of the Save Our Shelters Pen Pals program. Pixie lost her battle to cancer in 2009. She was a strong advocate for animal welfare – first as an SOS volunteer, later as a board member, and then as president. In the last year of her life, Pixie served as the Director of Save Our Shelter’s Pen Pals program. Pixie had an incredible passion for animals. She was a strong advocate for spay and neuter, and for the adoption of abandoned dogs and cats. She was a great friend of animals and those who befriended them. We are inspired by Pixie and are committed to improving the quality of life for all animals.