Retired greyhounds in behind-bars bond

A Wandoo Reintegration Facility inmate with Pita.
A Wandoo Reintegration Facility inmate with Pita.

The dogs are learning to be socialised before being settled in family homes, after having spent years in kennels.

Prison director Wendy Sinclair said the greyhounds had made a big difference to the prisoners’ lives.

‘We have some pretty seriously disturbed offenders in here,’ she said.

‘They have had very traumatic childhoods, very uncared-for teenage years and many have never learnt to nurture.

‘Some have also committed violent crimes, but having these dogs here has calmed the whole prison down.’

The dogs spend most of their time in the company of the prison’s inmates and officers, with those who work with them carefully selected and required to undergo training in animal handling and first aid.

Extra Edge Community Services and Greyhounds as Pets manage the program inside the Serco-run prison, monitoring the dogs’ progress and wellbeing through regular contact with specially-nominated prison officers who help care for the dogs.

Greyhound program facilitator Danny Whetton, from Extra Edge, said the bonds that formed between the dogs and the inmates ran deep.

‘Sometimes, when it’s time for the dogs to be fostered by a family, they have to be physically removed from the guys,’ he said.

Some dogs have gone to live with prison officers or their relatives and Mr Whetton said Wandoo inmates could be kept up to date with their former charges with emails and photographs.

Once a dog is adopted, a new one joins the program.

Ms Sinclair said the focus at Wandoo was on preparing prisoners to be job ready, able to take responsibility for themselves and capable of building meaningful relationships when they left.

She said the partnership with the prison and the greyhound program was a perfect fit for both the residents and the dogs, who needed foster care.