Pelos 2″ Project helps rehabilitate inmates and abandoned dogs in Vila Real


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The training of “homeless” dogs by inmates of the Vila Real Prison and their mutual rehabilitation is the goal of the “Pelos 2” project, which takes the animals to the jail twice a week.

The moment when the dogs cross the gates of the Vila Real EP is the most awaited of the week by Tiago, 35, a prisoner who wants to be identified only by his first name and who is already an ambassador of the “Pelos 2” project, which is being implemented by the DTC Social association.

“It was a five-star initiative, both to help the animals and to help me in here to pass the time. It has been fantastic to participate,” she told Lusa news agency, stressing her passion for dogs.

As an ambassador you also have the job of helping other inmates fulfill their role as educators.

The animals are a kind of “breath of fresh air” that enters the gates of the Vila Real jail twice a week. Lusa followed one of the sessions that began in the outdoor patio, but then moved inside the building due to the intense heat that was felt.

“I’ve always had this fascination for dogs and to be here helping to educate them for their reintegration into society, then it’s a double pleasure,” said Tiago, who is currently in pre-trial detention and awaiting trial in a case related to drug use.


In this PE, “Pelos 2” involved 24 inmates, but the project extends to five more prisons in the North of the country, involving a total of 99 dogs and 369 inmates, between men and women.

Participants train dogs to improve their behavior so that they can be adopted. They teach the animal to walk on a leash, to sit or lie down, and when it does, they give it a treat as a reward.

“In the situation I’m in now this means a lot. The spending time, the learning, is a big help here at the facility,” James pointed out, introducing Lara, the shy and fearful dog he trained with.

Duarte Capela, 59, is serving time for drug trafficking and has Dingo as his partner.

“It’s not easy being in here, I get distracted during the hours I come here, I like the dogs and I like to teach them and that they know me too. I go in there happier,” stressed the inmate, who said that the project has been a help “to endure more.

For 15 months in prison, Duarte has a four-year sentence to serve and is awaiting the outcome of his appeal.

Artur Silva, 46, trains Mel and said he loved the project for the dogs and the association’s team, guaranteeing that he learned “many good things”, namely how to care for and respect animals.

Also serving time for drug trafficking, he said that this time with the dog helped him to “abstract a little from the thoughts” inside the jail.

“The idea is that, in the end, both the dogs and the people leave with strengthened skills that allow them a better integration in society. On the dogs’ part, the ideal is that they find a family, that they can be adopted, and on the people’s part is that they use this time of confinement to reinforce or work on behavioral and social skills, such as empathy,” said Sílvia Sousa, a psychologist from DTC Social.

In her opinion, “mutual rehabilitation is the key word” of this project and when asked if “Pelos 2” is making a difference for the inmates, she answered “yes”.

This association makes animal assisted interventions and the handler António Brandão stressed that the mission is to “help animals and people”, giving a second chance to dogs that have histories of abandonment and also of being returned to the kennel due to behavioral problems.

Therefore, he added, the aim is to reduce the likelihood of return, while at the same time, the educators are able to acquire concepts and canine education, tools that may come in handy when they leave the EP.

“The feedback from the work with the educators is great, that is, this whole process is very rewarding,” said António Brandão, highlighting the hope of being able to “make a difference in someone’s life.

Maria Celeste Martins, director of the Vila Real EP, highlighted the positive results of the project, pointing out that it is noticeable “that the anxiety and aggressiveness” of the participating inmates has decreased a lot, and that it is also noticeable “in the behavior they have with each other”.

“For the gentlemen inmates this has been an immense asset,” he stressed.

Enrollment in the program is on a voluntary basis, but it is necessary to meet criteria, namely the inmate must not have a history of mistreatment or abuse against animals, and must have enough prison time to stay during each cycle of intervention, which corresponds to three months.

The cycle of this group of inmates ends now and the unanimous wish revealed by all is that the project can be extended.

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