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Illawarra offenders help RSPCA to make animal rehabilitation pawsible

Published date: Monday 14 May 2018

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Illawarra Reintegration Centre inmates are taking a pawsitive step towards rehabilitation, gaining crucial skills and experience while helping the RSPCA’s Illawarra Shelter to care for hundreds of furry friends.

The group of carefully selected low-risk inmates have been learning to socialise and train rescued dogs and cats, to maximise the animals’ chances of being rehomed.

Corrective Services NSW Community Projects Senior Overseer Mark Gallagher said the partnership with the RSPCA also provides the inmates vital work experience ahead of their release.

“These inmates are heavily involved with pressure cleaning, painting and maintaining the site as well as the work they do exercising and socialising the dogs,” Mr Gallagher said.

“This provides them with a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills, develop a strong work ethic and interact with non-Corrective Services NSW staff, which is crucial to them securing employment upon their release.”

The group has completed more than 300 hours’ work at the Unanderra shelter in the past six months.

RSPCA - Buster the dog

Shelter Manager Judith Wright said 12 inmates have completed the RSPCA’s Open Paws program, which teaches the inmates how to interact and provide basic training to the animals.

“Many of these animals and men share a common bond - having come from difficult backgrounds - so this program gives them the opportunity to heal together and learn from one another,” Ms Wright said.

“A lot of our volunteers are women, so it’s great for the animals to have more male interaction, and more regular exercise and attention, which we don’t always have enough time to give.”

Member for Kiama Gareth Ward said the partnership has already had a significant impact on the inmates, including one who has been accepted into TAFE NSW to study Certificate II in Animal Studies.

“Skills and education are vital to the rehabilitation process,” Mr Ward said.

“This initiative is just one of the many ways the Illawarra Reintegration Centre is helping inmates to prepare for a successful return to the community.”

The centre’s community projects team has worked at a number of sites in the past including Killalea State Park and the Mount Keira Scout Camp.

RSPCA - Bentley the cat