How Missouri inmates helped save over 1,000 dogs

Puppies for Parole graduates and their offender handlers in Moberly, Missouri.

Puppies for Parole graduates in Moberly, Missouri. Image used courtesy:

George Lombardi doesn’t have a dog of his own right now. But thanks to a program he kicked off, over 1,000 shelter dogs in Missouri have avoided euthanasia since 2010.

George Lombardi, Director of Missouri Department of Corrections

George Lombardi

Puppies for Parole puts homeless dogs in the 24/7 care of inmate trainers, who teach the animals basic obedience and socialization to help them get adopted. The program utilizes zero tax dollars and is 100% supported by private donations.

At the bottom of this post find out how you can help!

Although not unique in design, Missouri’s program is a national leader.

“Nobody has a program as extensive as ours,” Lombardi says.

To date, 18 of the state’s 20 correctional facilities have instituted Puppies for Parole. The other two prisons are in the process of getting onboard.

The first Puppies for Parole dogs entered the Jefferson County Correctional Center in 2010. The same year, the program received the Governor’s Award for Innovation.

The program’s benefit are threefold:

  • Preventing homeless dogs from being euthanized.
  • Enhancing the relationship between prisons and communities.
  • Providing a positive emotional outlet for offenders.

That last point was most important to Lombardi, who felt inmates “would get this unconditional love back from the dogs, who didn’t care who they were or what they did in the past,” Lombardi says. “I felt that would have a positive effect on the prison.”

Lombardi was very certain of this because about a decade ago he helped connect the group C. H. A. M. P. Assistance Dogs, Inc. (Canine Helpers Allow More Possibilities) with women Missouri inmates. The success of that program inspired him to begin Puppies for Parole.

“I was thinking about the impact that I saw that it had on the women,” he says. “So I decided to approach all of the wardens of all of the prisons.”

Even so, Lombardi’s suggestion in 2010 that prisons start bringing in shelter dogs was not a directive. “I only wanted it to happen if people wanted to do it,” he says. Fortunately, for most people, the chance to have dogs in the workplace isn’t a hard sell.

One by one, wardens around the state jumped at the opportunity.

To many, including the guard interviewed in the video below, the positive impacts of the dogs on the prison community were immediately apparent.

The effects are clear beyond the prison walls, too. Moberly Correctional Center’s local shelter partner has euthanized zero dogs for non-health-related reasons since getting involved with Puppies for Parole in 2011.

The impact of the program on individual people is profound, as well. Using positive reinforcement techniques and under the guidance of professional trainers, Missouri inmates have helped train dogs to live with families and group facilities, including centers for the mentally ill and for veterans.

“I always had it in my mind to try to help veterans,” Lombardi says. “So every single one of our veterans’ homes in Missouri has one of these dogs.”

Perhaps seeing a reflection of themselves in society’s castoff dogs, the offender handlers take great care in their responsibility. Examples abound of inmates helping difficult and disabled dogs become lovable, adoptable animals.

The story in the video below concerns Knuckles, a dog returned by other adopters three times. Thanks to Puppies for Parole he got another chance – and helped a little girl with Asperger’s syndrome open up to the world.

Upon receiving Zeus, a deaf dachshund, offenders at the South Central Correctional Facility in Licking, Missouri, turned to hearing-disabled inmates for suggestions on how to help the dog. “They told them to stomp on the ground to get the dog’s attention,” Lombardi says. “They ended up teaching Zeus nine sign language commands.”

Then, the offenders gathered money amongst themselves to help get Zeus, later renamed Sparky, placed in a Missouri school for the deaf.

Since then, several more deaf dogs have come through Puppies for Parole, including Windsor, also blind, featured in the video below.

How you can help Missouri’s Puppies for Parole

This program’s biggest need is for monetary donations. According to a limit set by the governor of Missouri, Puppies for Parole may accept up to $10,000 in private donations each year. So far, that number has never been reached.


Lombardi hopes one day Puppies for Parole can attain 501c3 non-profit status, which may encourage more people to give money and could even help fund at least one dedicated staff member. (Because no state money may be used for the program, any efforts put in on behalf of the program by prison staff are voluntary.)

In the meantime, Lombardi hopes people will continue supporting Puppies for Parole however they can – by donating, sharing the stories and by supporting the places the program was originally designed to help the most.

“Adopt dogs from shelters. Support your local shelter,” Lombardi says. “We’re all in this together.”

But why doesn’t Lombardi have a dog yet, you ask?

No time – overseeing 20 prisons across the state keeps him on the road too much, and his wife is equally busy.

“When we do get a dog again you can bet it will be a Puppies for Parole dog,” he says.

Dog people at heart, the Lombardis’ first pup was a dog named Tomato that he picked up on the street and who inspired her to write a children’s book.

Keep up with the success stories by liking Missouri Puppies for Parole on Facebook or visiting the Missouri Department of Corrections website, where you can browse adoptable dogs.

Button an adoptable dog through Puppies for Parole

Button, an adoptable Puppies for Parole dog.

Does this story inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About crystalwayward

I live with two formerly wayward dogs. I care deeply about the environment, and I think gardening is a revolutionary act.

Posted on August 26, 2012, in Awesome, Dogs and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I just love this! I’m sure there are inmates who were saved by the puppies they are training, just as much as the puppies were saved by then. If everyone in the world had a dog, I’m sure it would be a much more peaceful place! Thanks for sharing this post – I love Windsor!

  2. I’m so glad there are programs out there like this, it has a positive impact not only on the dogs but the inmates as well. Great post!

  3. How cool! I had heard of programs like this before but didn’t realize how involved Missouri was with it!

  4. Very awesome program to help save shelter dogs!!

  5. What a wonderful program! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. So wonderful…. EVERY prison should be implementing this program, and obviously using Missouri as an example! I had no idea they were so successful… Linked to them on FB. Thanks for sharing!!

  7. Crystal: A very belated thanks to you for your extensive and wonderful blog article which explains what we are trying to accomplish in great detail! As you know, we are totally committed to this effort and at 18 prisons with hopes for all 20 to have a program before the end of this year. In addition since we use no tax dollars to help, we had a very successful auction where so many people donated and then bid on great stuff – we made close to 20k!! Unbelievable and this will help sustain our effort into the future.
    We will have an article on P4P on the site which I will post on FB and send to you. Thanks to all your bloggers and commenters on their support as well! We look to the future to continue to interdict the euthanization of dogs with needs, the help to offenders in bringing back compassion to their lives, and to people in need who will benefit from our great companions!
    Thank you so very much Crystal and I hope you and Charlie Machete have a great run!
    George Lombardi

    • I am so happy to hear about the success of the fundraiser! It was a real pleasure to speak with you, George, and learn more about your great program. I will look out for the story and try to keep my readers updated on other P4P developments. Thanks for the encouragement – and sponsorship – on my upcoming run with Charlie Machete!

  8. Have you ever considered about including a little bit
    more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all.

    Nevertheless think of if you added some great visuals or
    videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and clips, this site could undeniably be one of the very best in its field.
    Wonderful blog!

  1. Pingback: How We Helped Dogs in 2012 « Wayward Dogs

  2. Pingback: 10 Inspiring Faces of 2012 « Wayward Dogs

  3. Pingback: Do You Know Someone Who Needs Faith? « Wayward Dogs

  4. Pingback: This Good Old Boy is Looking for Love « Wayward Dogs

  5. Pingback: Red is a Good Color for Valentine’s Day « Wayward Dogs

  6. Pingback: This Foxy Lady Is Looking for a Friend | Wayward Dogs

  7. Pingback: Puppies for Parole Goes Beyond Dogs in Prison | Wayward Dogs

  8. Pingback: Fraggle Rock: Part 2 | Our Waldo Bungie

  9. Pingback: Hound Dog Joe | Wayward Dogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: