Foster Dog Program to Help Rehabilitate Inmates at Acacia Prison

Hercules is part of the joint program between the Dogs’ Refuge Home in Shenton Park and Acacia Prison.
Hercules is part of the joint program between the Dogs’ Refuge Home in Shenton Park and Acacia Prison.

HEIDI and Hercules are the first foster dogs met by offenders at Acacia Prison, with rehabilitation as a mutual goal.

Prisoners are expected to benefit from the dog foster program as part of rehabilitation at the medium security Wooroloo facility.

“Offenders benefit from newfound responsibility and the unconditional love and affection of the dogs, which helps in their pre-release rehabilitation pathway,” a prison spokeswoman said.

Results from dog foster programs show positive relationships between prisoners, as well as between prisoners and staff.

Offenders also gain literacy and numeracy skills through reporting and documentation work about the homeless pets.

The spokeswoman said the responsibility resulted in the dog carers feeling good about giving back to the community.

Participation in the program is open to offenders in self-care units only.

A selection panel of staff and management vetted the first foster care applicants, who also underwent a background check and completed a questionnaire to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and skill base.

In return, the fostered dogs, which are often found abandoned or abused, will receive full-time care to assist with their rehabilitation and behavioural training, making them more suitable for adoption and a permanent home.

Heidi and Hercules will live in the self-care units with their four carers, who will pair up to look after the two mastiffs,

Consistency and continuity of care will be the dog handlers’ shared objective, with all training based on positive reinforcement. They will learn canine care and obedience training.

Dogs’ Refuge Home chief executive Judy Flanagan said the new partnership with Acacia provided an opportunity to re-home their dogs.

“Being able to place our dogs in this type of foster care, where they will receive around-the-clock care and attention as well as daily training, is very beneficial,” said Ms Flanagan.

As part of Acacia’s agreement with the Dogs’ Refuge Home, the dogs in the foster program will be available for adoption at any time.

A full description, photograph and, in some cases, video of dogs in foster care is available on the Dogs’ Refuge Home website.

Acacia is a medium security facility with about 1400 offenders aged from 18 to 81, serving sentences from 12 months to life imprisonment.

Fact box

ACACIA and Woorooloo Farm Prisons urgently need more prison visitors.

The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services invites male and female volunteers to visit prisoners at least once every three months, for three to five hours.

Prison visitors may speak on behalf of offenders and provide a safeguard for their wellbeing and rights.

There are currently about 35 volunteers, aged 20 upwards, who visit metro and regional prisons in Western Australia.

For more information, visit