The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections participates in a number of programs with a dual purpose of rehabilitating offenders and animals. These programs teach responsibility, compassion and discipline and give both human and animal second chances in life.
Dixon Correctional Institute is home to Pen Pals Animal Shelter and Adoption Center. Offenders at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women and Rayburn Correctional Center partner with Doggone Express for the "From the Big House to Your House" program, which matches pre-selected and trained offenders with shelter animals for basic training (and in some cases advanced training for clients with various disabilities).
Pen Pals, Inc. Animal Shelter and Adoption Center
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit the state of Louisiana as a major category 3 storm. A conservative estimate reveals that over 50,000 animals were abandoned by their owners in New Orleans as they fled to safety. While their intentions were to return within days to retrieve their beloved pets, the animals were left trapped in homes or chained to fences, braving toxic waters and 100 degree temperatures with no food or water. Hours became days as they waited to be rescued and reunited with their owners.
Rescuers were understaffed and overwhelmed by the scope of the problem and the time-critical nature of their effort. But motivated by compassion, relief came in the form of these few dedicated volunteers. Along with those volunteers, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections and Dixon Correctional Institute (DCI) assisted by housing many of these abandoned animals. A make shift animal clinic was set up, and inmates were trained in caring for animals of all types, shapes and sizes. A vision was born out of tragedy.
In response to the events of this tragic and horrific situation, an agreement was made between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and DCI, to establish a permanent and emergency temporary animal shelter on the grounds of the prison. The HSUS obtained a grant in the amount of $600,000 to fund the construction of the facilities. The permanent animal clinic (better known as Pen Pals, Inc., Dog and Cat Shelter and Adoption Center) provides comprehensive training for future veterinarians and promotes the rehabilitation of those incarcerated who are trained to assist.
The Humane Society of the United States and the Louisiana State University Veterinary School have continued to support this tremendous partnership with financial assistance and veterinary care for the animals.
Our belief is that tragedies will happen, but Pen Pals Inc., will be there with food and a leash in hand.
PEN PALS, INC. ANIMAL SHELTER AND ADOPTION CENTER
A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
TAX ID # 80-0646300
Checks or money orders can be made payable to:
Pen Pals, Inc.
c/o Dixon Correctional Institute
Post Office Box 788
Jackson, Louisiana 70748
Phone: (225) 634-1200
All dogs and cats are spayed or neutered and are vaccinated.
There is a donation fee of $40.00 to adopt.
Please visit us on Petfinder at:
and on Facebook at
From the Big House to Your House Program (LCIW and RCC):
Creating lasting benefits for shelter dogs and the individuals who train them. The Big House to Your House establishes dog training programs in several Louisiana correctional facilities. Dogs with basic training have a better chance of being adopted, and offenders receive skills they can use upon release.
Those selected for the training program are called C.A.T.S. (Canine Assessment Training Staff), and they are responsible for their dog 24/7. One of the program’s main requirements is providing daily written assessments of their dog’s journey and training progress.
- Offenders selected for the training program are called C.A.T.S. (Canine Assessment Training Staff)
- To become a Master C.A.T., the participant needs to be in the program for 6 months.
- They train 3 new C.A.T.S. and must have trained at least 3 different dogs.
- During the 6 week program, C.A.T.S. are responsible for their dog 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They must provide daily written assessments of their dog's behavior.
Nearly 150 dogs have been through the program since inception. Dogs have been placed with adults and children who suffer from PTSD, Depression, Autism, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Benefits to Participants include:
- Increased self-esteem
- Possible job-career opportunity
- Training skills
- Communication skills
- Assessment skills
- Following instructions
- Unconditional caring