Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to launch program with veteran inmates, dogs

Apr 7, 2016, 8:30 AM
Veteran inmates housed in the Maricopa County Sheriff's veterans pod meet with dogs in the departme...
Veteran inmates housed in the Maricopa County Sheriff's veterans pod meet with dogs in the department's MASH unit as a part of a new program to help deal with stress and other problems. (Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is going to the dogs — literally.

The department, headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, will implement a new program in the Maricopa Animal Safe Haven, or MASH, unit that will allow veteran inmates to meet with man’s best friend every Wednesday.

Pups of all different breeds, from pitbulls to terriers, will be shuttled from their home at the First Avenue Jail to the Towers Jail to visit the veterans weekly. Arpaio said the program will be good therapy for the inmates and the dogs.

“Dogs are man’s best friend,” he said. “Many vets worked with dogs in foreign countries and just want to connect again with dogs.”

The dogs will visit the jail in the veterans pod, which was established by Arpaio in an effort to rehabilitate veterans and address some key problems, including PTSD.

Arpaio said the dogs in the MASH unit were taken from abusive or neglectful situations and are cared for by the department while awaiting adoption.

“The dogs been abused and kept in the jail,” he said. “We’ll help adopt them out, but in the mean time, we will use the dogs to relate to veterans.”

Studies have found that having dogs around is a stress reliever, even in hospitals, and Arpaio said despite their criminal history, he hopes the program will bring joy to the men who have spent time serving the country.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We can’t forget our military veterans. Maybe the animals will help them out and I’m sure the animals will be happy too.”

Even though the program is still in its early stages, Arpaio said he is hopeful that it will help out both the veterans and the dogs.

“I believe it will be successful,” he said. “Dogs are very good therapy whether they are trained or not and veterans can still have companionship with them.”

“What’s the downside? I don’t see any downside.”

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Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to launch program with veteran inmates, dogs