Prison Dogs

This is a paper that I did for the Anthrozoology Program at Canisius College.  It’s a review of available literature on the effectiveness of dog training programs in US prisons.


Despite their wide implementation in the United States, there has been very little substantive research done on prison dog programs (PDPs).  Many of the existent studies suffer from inherent flaws in scope and methodology, but do consistently demonstrate that the programs aid participating inmates in developing and improving communications and social skills resulting from interactions with the dogs in their care.  The available studies also indicate that participants show improvement in personal qualities such as empathy, self-esteem and a sense of responsibility.  These benefits are apparently related to a lower rate of recidivism for prison inmates who are directly involved in PDPs.  The effectiveness of prison based programs in training and socializing dogs is not well documented, although service animal organizations report much higher than normal acceptance rates from prison programs.  Recommendations are provided for further research that might serve to identify best practices and training approaches for both inmates and dogs.

ANZ 501 Final Paper – Prison Dog Programs – Reilly

Planning a Rescue Organization

I did this paper for one of my Masters program classes, in which we were asked to plan a rescue organization or shelter, assuming that we had $50K in seed money.  I decided to format the paper as a business plan, using the template recommended by HSUS.

I’d appreciate any comments or recommendations.

ANZ 524 Final Paper – Business Plan – Canine Ambassadors Foster Program – Reilly


I Hate People Syndrome…

(From a short project that I worked on recently)

There are several reasons that I can think of for shelter staff to be disappointed, frustrated or even infuriated by adopters or potential adopters, or people surrendering animals to the shelter.

There are people who consider pets to be disposable and replaceable.  The link to (below) describes how pet owners surrender their animals to shelters before going on vacations, or before having large parties or family events.  The shelters become overwhelmed with surrenders on a seasonal basis, while the former owners are off enjoying themselves.

Another point of frustration are the complaints from some potential adopters about the adoption process itself.  I’ve witnessed customers at our shelter who objected to the questionnaire and interview process, and considered them to be burdensome and unreasonable.   They seem to consider animals to be something that can be picked off a shelf, like a box of cereal, and aren’t open to the idea that the shelter staff are there to match them with the right pet.  Admittedly, some private rescues have very high hurdles that adopters must cross in order to take home a pet (as seen in the below Slate article), but most shelters are simply asking common-sense questions.

The biggest source of frustration has to be with people who simply lie.  They will turn in a pet, claiming that it is a stray in order to avoid paying a surrender fee.  They will lie about the reasons that a pet is being turned in, its age, its health (possibly out of guilt), and any behavior or temperament problems.  Adopters will lie about their family status, lease agreements, their living situation.  Dealing with this will inevitably wear on shelter staff.


Why are some sites successful in using social media?

(From a short project I recently completed)

From what I’ve been able to discern, the difference between successful and unsuccessful use of social media depends on an organization’s understanding of what’s involved in using it.  I’ve noticed that unsuccessful sites use social media simply as another means of publishing – pushing their website posts onto other formats.  One organization, which I don’t want to mention because I’m affiliated with it, simply tweets their Facebook posts without editing, so only the first 140 characters are tweeted.

On the other hand, the sites that are successful users of social media (if success is measured in online presence and number of followers) do not address it as an IT  or publishing issue. They treat social media as a way of developing a community, and understand that it must be a two-way flow of information that should grow organically.   A successful site follows other media feeds as well as having its own followers.  Subscribers must be allowed to post content, and have it linked to their own social media feeds.

One success story is The Dodo.  It is a three-year-old startup that deals with animal welfare.  It invites users to post images via Snapchat, post tweets and upload other content.  The Dodo has 16 million followers on its Facebook page, and over 5 hundred thousand followers on Twitter – while also following over 3 thousand Twitter feeds.  It has 1.2 milion followers on Instagram while following over 3 thousand Instagram feeds.  It’s still a startup, and I have not been able to find a business plan for it, but it is attracting investors simply based on its social media presence.

Another good example, with a much different history, is the Skeptics Guide to the Universe.  This site is dedicated to the advancement of science and critical thinking, and began as a weekly podcast in 2005.  It has since expanded and added an active user forum, Facebook presence and Twitter feed.  The SGU has over a million Facebook followers and 50 thousand followers on Twitter, while actively following 3 thousand individual twitter feeds.

Part of the SGU’s success lies in the fact that they also actively network with other organizations in the skeptic movement, attend each other’s events and broadcasts, and thereby share listeners and subscribers.  This is impressive for a group of 5 people, with some part-time IT help and day jobs, who get together once a week to discuss science.