Therapy Dogs Soften Inmates' Hearts

A pet therapy group announced this week a partnership with authorities in downtown Los Angeles with the aim of trying to soften even the hardest criminal.

The group posted a picture Thursday with a beaming inmate in a blue-and-gray jumpsuit petting a yellow lab. Four days a week, volunteers with the Pet Prescription Team take their certified therapy dogs to meet inmates at Twin Towers.

"They are there to show unconditional love and are never judgmental," said Krystal Emery, the founder of the Pet Prescription Team, which has offices in LA and San Diego. "Humans will fail you, but dogs will not."

Initially Pet Prescription Team volunteers were apprehensive. But they warmed up when the dogs met the inmates.

"I was expecting a totally different experience today, but after the very first smile and their faces pressed against the glass vanished any apprehensions," said volunteer Jack Yandell.

Emery said volunteers began to tear up when they saw inmates cycle through a line to pet dogs through a small opening in their jail cells.

"Absolutely amazing," she said.

The Pet Prescription Team, a non profit founded in 2003 that trains and certifies owners and pets for therapy visits, is also developing programs with juvenile halls. The dogs are good at comforting children who have dealt with trauma, Emery's husband and co-director Philip Emery said.

"The dogs decrease stress and address trauma by creating a softer and quieter environment," said a Nick Ippolito, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.

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