Pen Pals of San Quentin

Since 2005 the Pen Pals of San Quentin program has been teaching specially selected inmates how to teach fundamental commands and help dogs overcome special problems before they return to the Marin Humane Society to enter the adoption cycle. These pups need quality time with a person — and time is something the inmates have in abundance. The prisoners have also proven to have big hearts that are definitely up to the job.

Pen Pals began when Larry Carson of the MHS behavior and training department, saw an Animal Planet Channel special called “Cell Dogs.” The Genesis Award-winning program tells the story of dogs placed with inmates for rehabilitation, and of the loving gifts the animals and men gave to each other.

Carson, a retired Marin County building contractor, felt that this would be an ideal project for MHS. When the San Quentin Warden embraced the proposal, it moved forward with amazing speed.

Pen Pals volunteers work in the prison Fire House either as firefighters or emergency medical technicians. They must have a clean behavior record and absolutely no prior history of animal abuse. Many of the participating inmates have benefitted from increased self esteem from learning new skills and seeing their dog’s progress and be successfully adopted into new homes, and have developed increased empathy by taking care of their dogs’ needs around the clock.

Program expenses are funded through donations and grants. To date, more than 225 dogs have graduated from the program.

Read more about the Pen Pals of San Quentin Program


Marin Humane Society

171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd, Novato, CA 94949
Phone 415.883.4621

Copyright 2011