Mobilong Prison program gives greyhounds new leash on life

A greyhound fostering program is helping Mobilong Prison inmates connect with their softer sides while training dogs for a life after racing.

Since November, a handful of ex-racing greyhounds have come to live at the prison for up to 10 weeks at a time.

Up to 16 will eventually be housed there.

Prisoners train them to accept a lead, brushing, bathing and toilet training, and to behave themselves at meal times, and can gain a Certificate II in Animal Studies as they do so.

Correctional Services Minister Chris Picton said the program was a win-win for both the dogs who needed to find new homes, and the prisoners who would need a new direction in life upon their release.

"Greyhounds ... can't be immediately put back into homes," he said.

"They need to go through a process of adoption, a process of training, to learn the skills that will be involved in leading a household life.

"Everybody knows the affection that you get from having a dog in your household.

"Having man's best friend here in the prison certainly leads to having that affection and camaraderie throughout the prison environment."

Greyhound Racing SA (GRSA) chief executive officer Matt Corby said a similar volunteer program operating outside prisons, and a trial at Adelaide Women's Prison, had both proven successful.

"Prisoners benefit – it's great for their motivation, it's great for their rehabilitation, and it's perfect for the reward system within this environment," he said.

"Obviously our greyhounds get the training they need to go into having an enjoyable, productive and loving home.

"They learn the sights and sounds that dogs in a normal domestic environment would understand."

He said more than 100 greyhounds had been re-homed through the women's prison, sometimes with prisoners' families.

He described the breed as high on affection, low on maintenance and prone to sleeping more than the average teenage boy.

Prison general manager Sandra Russell said the program had given some of Mobilong's inmates a job worth getting excited about.

"It's hard not to be touched by the experience of being around the dogs," she said.

"In this setting it's a real opportunity ... to participate in a program that actually brings them into contact with something that provides love that's unconditional.

"There are not a lot of these kinds of programs around, and we're really excited that it's happening here."

Up to 600 ex-racing dogs, or dogs which prove unsuitable for facing, need to find foster homes each year.

Meanwhile, GRSA director Grantley Stevens said, a new greyhound racing track at Murray Bridge East was on track to be finished by Christmas.

He said the track was the biggest project Greyhound Racing SA had ever invested in, and crucial to the local industry's future.

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