Great Mates Prison Programme

Early in 2018 GRNZ partnered with the Department of Corrections to develop a therapeutic Greyhound rehoming programme.  Now a permanent initiative, the Great Mates Prison Programme sees the  prisoners take on roles as dog handlers, trainers and foster carers and the prison environment provides a unique platform for assisting in the greyhound rehoming process.  The extra training and acclimatising the greyhounds can have in the Great Mates Prison Programme before adoption, increases the likelihood that once the greyhound is placed in a new home, they will remain there. 

Over eight weeks, four prison handlers work with a dog each, training them and getting them ready for a domestic environment.  Kennels, an exercise area and an area that resembles a residential home have been established within the prison grounds to help the greyhounds get ready for adoption.  

Currently the programme is active within the Te Whare Manaakitanga Special Treatment Unit at Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt, Wellington.  Jo Heath, the unit’s Principal Corrections Officer says “You can see the changes in the men and the dogs as they work together. The men have supported each other and when they’ve faced challenges they have worked as a team to get solve them.” 

A Great Mates trainer visits the prison handlers weekly to teach them the skills to train the dogs and ensure they’re ready for pet life, and to check on each dog’s welfare.  Dr Mairi Stewart, Head of Welfare for GRNZ, says; “This is an exciting programme and enhances our greyhound rehoming programme by teaching the skills needed to transition from racing life to pet life before being rehomed.  We’re really impressed with the work the handlers have done to get the dogs ready for new homes.”   

We will be looking for opportunities to expand this programme as it develops.

If you are looking to adopt a graduate of Great Mates, Breeze, a playful three-year-old greyhound is still available. Read more about Breeze here.

Walking on the lead

Jack undergoing on-lead training

Kennel Enclosure

The kennel area at Rimutaka Prison

Getting Brushed

Zandie enjoying being brushed

Greyhounds being inducted

Zandie and Jack about to enter the prison with Jo Heath, Principle Corrections Officer; Rachel Rae, Nightrave Greyhounds; Jan Voss, Great Mates Trainer and Dr Mairi Stewart, Head of Welfare at GRNZ.