Inmates at the Wellington Correctional Centre will be the latest to take part in a unique program where they will help train greyhounds for life as a pet.
The Greyhound As Pets (GAP) Prison Program was officially launched on Monday at Wellington by local, Upper House MP, the Hon. Stephen Lawrence MLC, representing the Minns’ Government and the Minister for Corrections, the Hon. Anoulack Chanthivong.
The Wellington Correctional Centre is the latest to partner with Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW) and GAP for the program which has been a continuing success since it was launched in 2010 at Dillwynia Correctional Centre at Windsor in Sydney’s north-west, and later introduced to the Hunter Correctional Centre.
“The GAP Prison Program has proven over the years to be beneficial for both inmates and our wonderful greyhounds,” GRNSW Chief Executive Officer Rob Macaulay said.
“We have been informed by prison staff at the centres where the GAP Prison Program has been in place - Dillwynia and Hunter Correctional Centre - that the initiative has seen better communication with inmates due to a common interest in talking about the greyhounds.
“At GRNSW and GAP we have known for a long time what loving, affectionate and placid animals greyhounds are, and what amazing pets they make, and it is no longer a well-kept secret.
“We are delighted to be able to have the GAP Prison Program commence at Wellington, and we are certain that the inmates, the staff, and our animals, will all be beneficiaries of this program.”
Each intake of six greyhounds will spend six weeks in the program, and during that time inmates provide training and care for the animals for up to 6.5 hours a day, as they are prepared for the transition from racing to pet life.
During the training period, inmates teach the dogs various activities such as walking on a loose lead, name recognition and recall to handler, obeying directions to their bed or a specific place, and laying down.
The training program not only prepares greyhounds for their next stage of life, but ensures they are the perfect fit for any home, and those greyhounds in the program which show potential will advance for additional training to become Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) companion animals.
This project has been a six-month build for Corrective Services Industries and to supplement their learnings from GAP staff, inmates are now engaged in an animal husbandry course through TAFE NSW.
Wellington Correctional Centre GAP Co-Ordinator Natasha Richards said GAP connects retired racers to new families while providing meaningful opportunities to inmates who learn pro-social skills in domestic dog care, animal first aid and animal husbandry.
“Connecting with animals on a deeper level and being responsible for making sure they have the best possible chance at a second life is something that is close to many inmates’ hearts,” Ms Richards said.
“The idea of a second chances is at the very heart of this program – the dogs are rehabilitated by inmates who, at the same time, are undertaking their own transformative and life-changing journey.”
Acting Commissioner Corrective Services NSW Leon Taylor said the experience was rewarding for the inmates and boosted their skills for their post-release life.
“This program helps animals in need find a loving family, while offering inmates the tools and experience to become law-abiding members of our communities,” Mr Taylor said.
“Caring for animals through GAP teaches the principles of discipline and responsibility, which are beneficial for inmates to focus on when striving to modify their behaviour.”