The Humane Society of the United States has made a $65,000 grant to Pen Pals, Inc., the nation’s only prison-based animal shelter, in honor of Baton Rouge centenarian Holly Reynolds. Ms. Reynolds, who founded three Louisiana-based humane organizations, will celebrate her 100th birthday on December 16.
The Pen Pals, Inc., Dog and Cat Shelter and Adoption Center, based on the grounds of the Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana, provides animal care, socialization of animals for adoption, and learning opportunities for people in prison and for veterinary students from Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, which supports the medical needs of the animals.
The shelter’s origins go back to a difficult moment. When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, the men and women of DCI and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections stepped forward to assist with the housing and care of homeless animals. DCI set up a makeshift animal clinic and inmates received training in animal care.
The collaboration was a success, and as a result, a new role for DCI emerged. The Humane Society of the United States provided $600,000 in seed monies to build an animal shelter at the prison, and it has continued to support the program.
Since it opened in August 2010, Pen Pals has received homeless and relinquished animals from East and West Feliciana Parish, and other sources. Program participants train and socialize animals, and work with veterinary and corrections personnel to provide optimal veterinary care and attention. When all agree that the animals are ready, volunteers take them out to adoption events in neighboring communities. To date, 463 dogs and 274 cats have found their forever homes through the program at DCI. Pen Pals has also served as an emergency shelter during subsequent disasters, like the 2016 Baton Rouge flooding, held animals rescued from cruelty cases pending court action, and trained service animals for people with disabilities and for military veterans.
“Pen Pals is an enduring positive result of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and we’re delighted to support it,” says Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Born in the midst of wrenching disaster, this partnership has resulted in hundreds of dogs and cats being saved, rehabilitated and adopted since 2006.”
“We’re proud of our role during Hurricane Katrina, but we’re even more gratified that the Pen Pals animal shelter has become a standing program at DCI,” says James M. LeBlanc, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. “The work we do there has touched so many people inside the correctional system for the better. On top of that, countless Louisiana citizens have been able to adopt animals through the shelter’s outreach programs. It’s a win for everybody involved- dogs, people, and DCI’s communities.”
Reynolds is believed to be the oldest living member of the HSUS, and her association with the organization goes back to its founding meeting, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1954. She is in good health and remains active in animal welfare work in Louisiana and nationwide.