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600 greyhounds and still going strong

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Sparrow the greyhound took all the fuss in her stride last Thursday when she was feted as the 600th greyhound to graduate from the Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP) at Tarrengower Prison. The highlights of her day? Plenty of pats and a delicious cake, topped with bacon!

Since 2009, the women of Tarrengower have been involved in a program that is a partnership between Corrections Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV), through the auspices of the GAP. Visiting Tarrengower last week to mark the 600th milestone was Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards plus representatives from Corrections Victoria, GRV and the GAP.

The program works like this: four retired racing greyhounds are delivered to Tarrengower and four women are given the responsibility of training each dog over a four week period. The women’s brief is to teach the dogs about life outside a greyhound kennel. The greyhounds are given behavioural training around people and other animals and are kept busy with plenty of daily walks and opportunity for play.

“You have to remember that these dogs have never been inside a house,” explained Jane who is one of the women involved in the program. “We bring them into our units and show them how to climb steps, to deal with all sorts of things such as different floor coverings, glass doors, furniture and normal indoor sounds such as TV and vacuum cleaners.”

Women caring for the dogs are given plenty of support by GAP staff member Karen, who visits once a week to catch up with the women and to give advice where needed.

What’s the most important thing that needs to be taught to a greyhound that has just arrived at Tarrengower? “Boundaries,” said Lucy, who is one of the women involved in training the dogs. “They must learn that they can’t jump up, and they should be polite. They have to be able to walk nicely on a lead.”

Lucy has been so inspired by being part of the program that she is studying for her Certificate III in animal studies and spends one day a week working in Castlemaine at Mount Alexander Animal Welfare. She spoke about the unconditional love that she receives from her charges. “Being with them is good therapy, for disability and trauma,” she said.

Jane has also gained a great deal from the five months she has been part of the program, finding it a positive way to deal with feelings and trauma. “I love it,” she said. “It’s really rewarding to think that you’re finding a forever home for these beautiful animals, even though it’s heartbreaking when you see them go.” Jane has also begun the animal studies course.

Prison officers spoke positively about the benefits of the program, in terms of delivering positive outcomes for both the greyhounds and the women who care for them. “All credit to the women,” said Will, an officer who has been involved with the program since day one. “We’re there to provide a little supervision, but the success of the program rests with them.”

“Thank you to all corrections staff who work hard every day to rehabilitate people in prison and keep the community safe,” Ms Edwards said. “The Greyhound Adoption Program provides an opportunity for prisoners to work together and achieve a common goal, benefiting both the greyhounds and the women at Tarrengower.” 

Tarrangower Times 17 May 2024

This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 17 May 2024.

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