Pen Pals is a program of the former Save Our Shelters. FETCH was chosen to run this program after the Save Our Shelters organization dissolved on August 1st of 2010. The program continues on with FETCH a Cure, in honor of Pixie Williams, former director of the Save Our Shelters Pen Pals program. Pixie lost her battle to cancer in 2009. She was a strong advocate for animal welfare – first as an SOS volunteer, later as a board member, and then as president. In the last year of her life, Pixie served as the Director of Save Our Shelter's Pen Pals program. Pixie had an incredible passion for animals. She was a strong advocate for spay and neuter, and for the adoption of abandoned dogs and cats. She was a great friend of animals and those who befriended them. We are inspired by Pixie and are committed to improving the quality of life for all animals.
Through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Corrections, inmates at Virginia correctional centers - Buckingham Correctional Center, Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, Deerfield Correctional Center and Lunenberg Correctional Center – train and socialize rescue dogs with the guidance and instruction from two professional dog trainers. The Pen Pals program not only lowers the rate of euthanasia in Virginia’s city dog shelters, but also provides life skills to inmates. Our rescue dogs chosen for the program come from Richmond Animal Control and Southside SCPA shelters. On average, 90 dogs are rescued and placed into loving homes every year through Pen Pals!
The Pen Pals program promotes inmate rehabilitation while increasing positive communication and interaction between correctional center staff and the rest of the inmate population. Inmate handlers learn viable job skills and some have gone on to become professional dog trainers following their release. By working cooperatively to help the animals, the inmates learn responsibility, patience, and emotional confidence among many other character building qualities that improve and enhance external relationships. These skills and attributes are acquired while training a dog that may not have had a chance for a happy life. Every time a dog leaves the program to go its new home, the inmate handler feels a sense of accomplishment and pride that they have given back to their community in a positive manner, leaving a smile on both ends of the leash.
The program not only lowers the rate of euthanasia in Virginia’s city dog shelters, but also provides life skills to the inmates that train them.