Monday 08 October, 2012

GAP's Debbie Lemon watches on as an inmate cuddles one of the greyhounds.


Dignitories gathered at Dhurringile Prison recently to celebrate the fifth birthday of the Greyhound Adoption Program’s Prison Pet Partnership.
Located at the prison’s kennel block, front and centre for all to see, was part-time GAP employee Debbie Lemon, who was demonstrating her utmost commitment to the cause.
The crowd of about 30 – which included two Ministers, Corrections Victoria officials, GAP & GRV representatives - were led by Prison supervisors to the kennel area, where Debbie was found helping inmates instil ‘good manners’ into a handful of greyhounds.
This wasn’t an off-the-cuff lesson from Debbie. It was part of on-going obedience training that Debbie performs upon her weekly visits to Dhurringile prison and Tarrengower women’s prison.

Three inmates - all nominated foster carers for the current lot of greyhounds at Dhurringile - were taking part in the training, which was centred around discouraging the dogs from pulling on the lead.
Debbie was showing the inmates how to use the lead as a harness, thus giving them full control over the greyhound’s movements. This method is pain-free and requires little force, however for long term results it takes persistence.
“It takes a lot of work and persistence, and this is why the stronger and more excitable dogs are often sent (by GAP) to the prisons. The inmates spend six weeks with the dogs and the obedience training GAP provides the prisoners obviously helps,” Debbie said.
“It is so important that these dogs are settled on the lead in every situation, because the reality is that in a few weeks time they could be walked on a lead by a five year old kid, and the last thing we want is for them to take off.”
“It is important that at events like this, where having a lot of different people around is likely to get the dogs over excited, we maintain the rules and boundaries we set for the dogs.”

“We are teaching them that even when the environment changes they still need to be on their best behaviour and show good manners.”

GAP has a number of foster carers across Victoria, however many of them end up adopting greyhounds they foster, often meaning they run out of room to foster others.

The beauty of the Prison Pet Partnership is that GAP can rely on the two prisons fostering four greyhounds at a time over a six week period all year round.
“The time the greyhounds spend in foster care at the prisons is critical, as it prepares them for life as domestic pet as opposed to life as a race dog,” Debbie said.

“The inmates socialise the dogs and introduce them to things like living in a house, climbing stairs and various household noises, and because the dogs get so much one-on-one attention over the six weeks their progress is outstanding.”


GAP's Melanie Luscombe and Debbie Lemon at the fifth birthday of the Prison
Pet Partnership at Dhurringile on September 27.

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