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If You Can Teach An Old Dog, Why Not Humans? September 6, 2010

Posted by Bill in Animals, Books, Uncategorized.
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Parade Magazine had an article on 8/15/10 about the rehabilitation of the Vick dogs. I had already read a little about this in the book Dogtown, which I wrote about in an earlier blog. What struck me as I read Dogtown and again as I read the article in Parade is how the animal workers did what was thought to be impossible– they took dogs of a bully breed- pit bulls- who had been raised and contained in horrible circumstances as fighting dogs or as bait dogs, and rehabilitated them into companion animals or service animals. Of the 51 dogs seized from the Vick farm, all but 2 have been rehabilitated.

It was not cheap to do this. U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson ordered that almost $1 million of the Vick money be set aside for the rescue and rehabilitation of the dogs. The ASPCA assembled a team of animal behavior experts to evaluate the dogs, and the animals were individually assessed and treated.

I am in awe that there are people who cared enough not to let these dogs be destroyed, cared enough to turn these dogs into loving companions, service animals and family pets. It would have been very easy to say that these animals could not be rehabilitated, to order their destruction and not give it a second thought, however the judge and the animal workers involved chose not to take the easy road, and their rewards were infinitely greater.

Which leads me to wonder why we cannot do the same with humans. In 2008, there were 2,304,115 people incarcerated in jails and prisons in the United States at a total cost of approximately $36 billion per year, a cost of about $15,624 per prisoner per year. To rehab the Vick dogs cost about $20,408 per dog. What if we were to apply the same sort of rehab philosophy toward human prisoners as was applied to the Vick dogs? What if instead of merely incarcerating prisoners, we took a real stab at rehabilitation? Not the joke that passes for rehabilitation today but a real effort that treats each prisoner as an individual person with individual needs and not a number. With almost 7 out of 10 male prisoners returning to prison within 3 years of their release, what we are doing is obviously not working.

Obviously it’s much easier just to lock the criminals away and throw away the key, but in so doing, we are also locking away potential. Individual assessments and rehabilitation plans, addressing the issues that made these people turn to crime in the first place might go a long way toward turning them around and making them into productive members of society. We’ve shown it can be done with dogs that most people thought could not be saved. Why can’t we do it for people as well?



1. A.Nonymiss - September 8, 2010

i absolutely agree with you. having worked with the dept of correctons as a drug counselor/community service officer, and having had some darn good success but also have to say that the DOC is not about to put themselves out of work. i was fired after blowing the whistle on the abuse by guards at the womens prison. the union, who should have had my back, also had the guards backs as well. so they “lost” my paperwork for arbitration and it was submitted 79 days late, thus i didn’t get the opportunity for arbitration. one of my former supervisors told me he read my file, & this was so wrong, to fight to the bitter end. he had told me previously that i brought a lightness to the office & a passion for my work. my clients(inmates on early release)would tell me that i was ‘real’ and they could tell i cared. even when i had to return them back to jail, they would thank me and tell me they knew i tried to help them. and many asked about me & wrote to me even after i was fired. that was many years ago. i still talk to several of them. but as far as the DOC is concerned, check out a peter jennings report on john armstrong who was commissioner at the time. he was requested to teach the soldiers at abu grahib how to interrogate prisoners. that should tell you a little something about the way they are.

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