Zach Skow is the founder of a platform to bring dogs into prisons around the United States. Skow founded Pawsitive Change, a non-profit that rehabilitates inmates by pairing them with rescue dogs.

According to the website, the program, “partners with California state prisons, to select 24-30 inmates and 8-10 at-risk shelter dogs for each prison program cycle. Over the course of 14 weeks, the inmates complete very challenging blocks of course work which involve weekly homework assignments and personal goals.”

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The Guardian reports that the pilot program at California City Correctional Facility has led to four more California state prisons and one female juvenile corrections center. Since the pilot in 2016, 300 men have graduated from the program and 200 dogs have been saved from “high-kill” shelters.

Skow points out the importance of students being emotionally centered in training, “Animals don’t follow unbalanced energy,” he told the Guardian, “so we need the guys to be able to recognize if they’re off their center and, crucially, how to get themselves on a level again.”

Isaac, who is 43 and has been incarcerated since he was 18, is completing the program for the fourth time, with a different dog each time. He says of the program, “Growing up in a patriarchal Hispanic family, the norm was to bottle up your emotions, but here I’ve been challenged to really be honest about what I’m going through. In the first round of training, I was matched with a really challenging dog, Tiny, who just wouldn’t come out of her crate. Working with her I had no choice but to ask some of the other guys for help, something I’d always avoided in my life.”

You can donate to the program here.

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