This Minnesota jail has therapy dogs to help inmates and employees

It's common for prisons to have dogs, but not for jails.

The Washington County Jail has some new, four-legged volunteers. 

The jail in Stillwater launched a new therapy dog program last week, and hopes having dogs around will "enhance the emotional wellness" of inmates and employees, the Washington County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

Dogs are known to help reduce tension, calm anxiety and reduce anger, making inmates less likely to act out, the sheriff's office said. 

“Our goal is to have inmates leave our facility better off mentally, physical and spiritually than when they came in," Sheriff Dan Starry said in a statement.

Many of the inmates will eventually be released from jail, and Starry said he wants to help them transition into successful members of society, adding: "We believe creating this connection of caring helps. It's the right thing to do." 

The sheriff's office noted the dogs will also spend time with kids who are visiting their parents in prison, and that this could help strengthen their bond. 

Dogs are from Home for Life

The program was implemented with the help of Wisconsin-based Home for Life, which rescues animals that can't be adopted and trains many of them to work with people.

Home for Life will bring dogs to the Washington County Jail at least two times a month, at no cost to the sheriff's office.

Inmates will be able to meet with the dogs on a voluntary basis and get the chance to learn about the dog's history. Many of the animals have survived emotional and physical trauma, which is something many inmates can relate to, the sheriff's office said.

The dogs will help workers, too

Law enforcement employees deal with a lot of tension and face traumatic events during their careers, so these therapy dogs could also help correctional officers, dispatchers, and sheriff's deputies. 

The sheriff's office said therapy dogs can help reduce work-related stress, make the work environment more positive, and create a sense of well-being between coworkers. 

Therapy dog programs for inmates in Minnesota

It's pretty common for prisons to have therapy dog programs (there are a bunch of different types – read about them here), but the Washington County Sheriff's Office said it's rare for therapy dogs to visit jails because inmates are only there for seven days or less, on average.

Several Minnesota Department of Corrections facilities have teamed up with animal rescue groups on dog programs. The groups place rescued, homeless dogs in foster care with pairs of inmates while the dogs await adoption. 

The dogs live with the inmates 24/7, and the inmates are responsible for caring for the pooch before they're adopted. 

Rush Start Rescue says there are programs like this through different rescue groups at the Minnesota Department of Corrections facilities in Moose Lake, Rush City, Lino Lakes, Faribault and Shakopee

Next Up

dnr trout stocking helicopter

DNR uses a helicopter to more efficiently stock lakes with trout

In the past, the DNR used airplanes to stock remote lakes with fish, but the survival rate of the fish was only 85%.

steve simon zoom call

Secretary of State explains plans for segregated absentee ballots

Election officials are reminding voters that it's too late to mail in your absentee ballots.

Halloween, trick-or-treating

Osterholm on safe trick-or-treating: 'I would say go ahead with it'

The infectious disease expert's opinion doesn't align with the CDC's guidance.

drop and go ballot plymouth

It's too late to mail your ballot, but you can still vote. Here's how.

Voters can drop off their absentee ballot, vote early in-person or head to the polls on Election Day.

2019-12-11 f1rst Wrestling Hanukka Havok-Darin Kamnetz-154

Dusting itself off after virus blow, F1rst Wrestling returns to the ring this Sunday

Minnesota's premier independent wrestling company was on top of the world before the virus hit.


McDonald's is bringing the McRib back in December

It hasn't appeared on menus for eight years.

Apple Valley High School

2 more Twin Cities districts moving to distance learning for grades 6-12

The decision was announced as infection rates in Dakota County rise.

covid-19 testing site sign

Here are the 4 free COVID-19 testing sites in MN for the week of Nov. 2

People don't need to have symptoms or insurance to get tested for free.

minnesota zoo

Minnesota Zoo launches activities to get people embracing nature

The zoo is hosting a pumpkin scavenger hunt and a "Do the Zoo, Not Zoom Day."


Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 1.38.24 PM

Carver County Sheriff gets thank you note from jail inmate

The writer thanks the sheriff for the facilities at the local jail.

Have an extra dog house? This MN police chief could use it

The police chief is housing dogs found after hours.

Inmate at Minnesota jail squirted urine, poop at deputy

The disgusting incident happened at Olmsted County Jail last week.

Sheriff: Dead dog found tied to an anchor was buried in the lake

The dog had been euthanized because she was suffering from a serious illness.