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Canines (and Cats!) in Correctional Institutions: Legal and Ethical Issues Relating to Companion Animal Programs

By Rebecca J. Huss

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Approximately one in 107 adults in the United States is incarcerated in some type of correctional institution. Effective programs are necessary to address the issues of these inmates. A growing number of correctional facilities allow for companion animals to be integrated into their programs in a variety of ways. A Dominican nun, Sister Pauline Quinn, is frequently credited with beginning the first dog-training program in the United States in a Washington State women’s correctional facility in 1981. A cable television program called Cell Dogs, broadcast in 2004, increased the visibility of these types of programs.  Reportedly, Cell Dogs triggered the establishment of programs in additional facilities. New programs are being established on a regular basis. Some states have adopted the concept in greater measure. For example, the State of Washington has animal programs in all twelve of its correctional institutions and the State of Missouri has programs in eighteen of its facilities. These programs are cited as conforming to a philosophy of “restorative justice” adopted by many departments of correction. 
The limited research in this phenomenon has considered the impact of the programs on the human prison population. This Article focuses on the legal and ethical issues involved with keeping companion animals in this very specific institutional environment. First, this Article analyzes various types of programs that correctional institutions have established and assesses common benefits of and challenges for the programs. Second, this Article considers programs that may allow for an inmate to have his or her “own” animal in a facility, including the question of whether service or assistance animals must be accommodated. Third, this Article evaluates the risks to humans involved
with these programs and makes recommendations to ensure the safety of the participants to reduce the liability to the institutions and organizations involved. Fourth, this Article considers the ethical implications of having companion animals in these environments, focusing on whether it is an appropriate placement for companion animals and providing guidance for those who wish to consider implementing or supporting such programs.


Katie Carroll

Date 2013
Publication Title Nevada Law Journal
Volume 14
Issue 1
Pages 25-62
Publisher University of Nevada Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal roles
  3. Cats
  4. Correctional Institutions
  5. Dogs
  6. Mammals
  7. Pets and companion animals
  8. prison-based animal programs
  9. Prisoners
  10. Prisons