You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Humane Society program works with juvenile detention center to stop animal cruelty and help troubled youth

By Erica Hobbs

12162012_NEWS_JuvenileAndPe (3).JPG

Director of Humane Education Karen Patterson and Animal Care Technician Alex Ball talks to youths about proper care of animals on Sunday.

Daniel Brenner I

Karen Patterson holds up a picture of a dirty, overcrowded kennel. In front of her, six teenagers clad in gray jumpsuits watch intently while Keyla, a 7-year-old pit bull terrier mix, lounges lazily on the floor, petted by her companions.

Patterson, a Humane Educator with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, is at her weekly visit to the Washtenaw County Juvenile Detention Center where she and partner Alex Ball are giving a talk on animal cruelty.

The lesson is part of the Humane Society’s new outreach program to educate at-risk youth about the proper care of animals to help stop the cycle of animal cruelty. The organization, which serves Washtenaw County, said it investigates about 500 animal cruelty reports every year.

The program began in early October with the help of a $44,000 grant from the James A. and Faith Knight Foundation, which provided funds for extra staffing.

“One of the things that we wanted to do was start reaching out to at-risk youth and getting into places where they might not be getting that role-modeling in their homes,” Patterson said. “[We wanted to] start showing them the positive sides of animals, the positive ways to deal with animals and how their choices with animals can affect the animals but also each other and the environment, and how it’s all kind of combined.”

Since its beginning, Patterson and Ball have spent every Sunday afternoon at the facility teaching the youth how to care for pets, sharing books on animals and allowing them to pet and interact with one of their dogs. While Sunday featured the second talk of a unit on dog cruelty, previous weeks’ topics have covered pet safety, animal communication, caring for pets at home and showing respect and compassion for animals.

In addition to preventing animal cruelty, the Humane Society also hopes the dogs will benefit the troubled youth.

“Our goals are to educate, and we want also to rehabilitate too,” Ball said. “We want to show we have animals here that are always compassionate. They don’t judge, they don’t see jumpsuits, and they want to be loved. Our dogs can do that for them and they can do that for our dogs.”

Youth Counselor Kevin Lockhart, who works at the facility, said the youth love it.

“It’s a nice treat for them,” he said. “They all perk up when they come in and it’s very good for them.”

Patterson said the response with the youths has been phenomenal.

“I feel like they’re getting more comfortable with us so they’re getting more open with us and willing to share more and ask harder questions,” she said. “We’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in just what they know and what they’re recalling from what we’re talking about. Even the way they interact with the animals we bring has changed a lot.”

The teens said they have been learning a lot from the program and enjoy interacting with the dogs, especially the larger breeds.

“It just gives you that warm, cuddly, comforting feeling that you can’t get from a human,” one 14-year-old girl said. “Dogs just have it, they just have that demeanor about them. It helps.”



Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

Inmates in the Iowa State Prisons raise puppies for Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan, very successfully, I might add. I wish there was a similar program for inmates in Michigan prisons to raise Leader Dog puppies.


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

What a wonderful group of people who give of themselves at HVHS. I know many young adults who work at HVHS and volunteer there. Their hearts are there for the animals and it is truly a dedicated collaboration. If you're planning to give charitable contributions, this is the organization that will delive, to make a difference in our community and help educate, protect and heal the most vulnerable in our our community. Kudos to Karen and Alex!


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

These programs have been going on for years across the country. Villalobos Rescue in New Orleans is probably the most known rescue of this type. They have a television program called Pitbulls and Paroles which is spreading the word about rehabilitation for both dogs and humans. Check them out on Facebook. All dogs start out good, just like people. What happens to them after that can make a huge difference. Keyla is a beautiful and sweet looking dog.


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

I hope that HSHV can also partner with the libraries and schools to start similar type programs before young people end up in detention. US government studies have indicated that a child's life before age 5 has a tremendous impact on his/her life. I strongly applaud HSHV for this program and hope that it can be expanded in the future. I worked for 40 years with neglected/abused children and substance abusers. Many had pets that they turned to for solace and comfort, which made a difference in their ability to put their lives on a positive track.


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

@Grandma Love the post and the warmth, check out HSHV's website I'm pretty sure they have youth programs for not-at-risk youth as well.


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

I am pleased to see this program. The young people in Detention and the HSHV animals have lived with the same kinds of abuse and neglect. Working together to heal the wounds of the past can bring a brighter future for everyone. Neither animals nor humans should live out their life in cages or endure cruelt and neglect.


Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

What an amazing story! This is really heart warming in a time filled with such peril! We should all revisit the line drawn between humans and other animals and blur it as much as possible because we are all connected, somehow. HSHV keep up the good work and you will have my utmost financial support!

Ed Anderson

Mon, Dec 31, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Wow! What a fantastic idea. Everything HSHV does impresses me. We all know the link between animal cruelty and human violence is strong. Working with kids in trouble to build empathy and responsibility is a win for everyone in our community. I recall some narrow-minded county commissioners trying to claim these folks just helps animals and that animals don't matter. They were clearly wrong on both accounts. I will make my year-end donation to HSHV, where my money will make a real difference.