A rescue group’s German shepherd has died while participating in a prison program intended to bring out the best in both the dogs in need of adoption and the inmates who are caring for and training them.
Members of the dog rescue group Joseph’s Legacy said one of its dogs, Evie, died from blunt force trauma, while housed at the Warren Correctional Institution, a state prison in Ohio.
The program — similar to many operating successfully and without incidents across the country — was operated for years in partnership with 4Paws for Ability, whose primary mission is to train and provide service dogs to the disabled.
But in a comment sent to ohmidog!, officials of that organization say the have not been involved in the program at Warren Correctional for several years.
“4 Paws For Ability is not associated with WCI at all …. We pulled out of WCI a year ago due to a change in the prison inmate population. They simply have not removed us from their website. We are not involved in this incident in any way,” the comment )below) reads.
Joseph’s Legacy had been sending dogs for about a year to the program, which is one of more than 30 operated in conjunction with different nonprofits in the Ohio state prison system.
The rescue told WLWT none of their dogs will return after this incident.
Authorities are questioning the two inmates Evie shared a cell with.
Similar programs are up and running in at least 159 prisons in 36 states — most house the dogs they are working with in kennels, some let the dogs share cells with inmates. Most, like the one at Warren Correctional, require that inmates not have a violent past.
In a Facebook post, Joseph’s Legacy wrote:
“We have lost one of our own animals who we feel needs justice and her story told…
“These programs are meant to be great for the dogs and the inmates. These programs are supposed to be closely monitored by the prison staff. We were invited to join this program at Warren Correctional institution. Like most, we were excited to have our troubled dogs get their training and excited to help the program. Many dogs came, got trained and headed out to their forever homes…
“These programs are more risky than we had originally thought. Please use our Evie as an example to think twice if you are in a rescue considering these types of programs. We know it’s not everywhere but please keep Evie in mind.”
While questions about the two inmates working with the dog, and the prison’s supervision of the program, are mounting, it’s probably worthwhile to take a look also at what outside monitoring of the program took place — namely by the rescue organization which so willingly donated dogs to be trained and whatever outside organization, if any, was running it.
On the Ohio prison system’s website, 4Paws is still listed as the official partner in the program at Warren State Correctional, but 4Paws that is old information that has not been updated.
What organization is behind the prison program is not clear.
The rescue organization, in calling for “Justice for Evie,” says in its Facebook post that “we had volunteers regularly on site and observing the dogs progress and how the handlers were working with them.”
“Regularly” is open to wide interpretation.
Evie the German shepherd came under the care of Joseph’s Legacy in 2015 after getting hit by a car and breaking a hip. About that same time, she had babies and nursed them through her recovery.
After that, she was adopted, but because she was prone to escaping, soon was returned to the rescue.
“…We had thought maybe trying to get some more training, it would be safer for when she was adopted again…”
They enrolled her in the program at Warren Correctional and last week got the call that the dog had been found dead in her cell.
According to the Facebook post, a necropsy showed Evie died from blunt force trauma to her abdomen, causing her liver to hemorrhage and damaging a kidney.
The organization also stated that its concerns about the program had recently risen — but not to the point that they had removed Evie from it.
“Last week, we got a dog and she was all of a sudden fearful, so we were investigating and just making sure everything was good, but you’re talking just a few days later, this happened,” Joseph’s Legacy President Meg Melampy said.
The State Highway Patrol is investigating the death, and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will hold its own investigation at the prison, as well as review animal programs at other prisons, JoeEllen Smith, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, told The Associated Press.
Most likely, prison authorities will quickly solve the mystery of who killed Evie. It is likely one inmate, or the other. But that inmate, directly responsible as he may be, is not the only one who deserves some scrutiny.
The state prison system needs to also ask some questions about itself, and the supervision it provided, keeping in mind that it’s not the concept behind the program that is at fault, but shortcomings in administering it. Those outside organizations involved in the program might be well served to take a look at themselves as well.
That would be justice not just for Evie, but for all dogs.
(Photos: From the Joseph’s Legacy Facebook page)