Toby Young was affectionately known as the “Dog Lady” for her volunteer work in founding the Safe Harbor Prison Dog program at Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas. Under her supervision it became one of the largest prison-based dog adoption programs in the country.
Then in February the 48-year-old married mother of two grown sons helped a 27-year-old murderer, John Manard, escape by hiding him in a dog crate and hoisting it into her van. Because the guards knew her and trusted her, they didn’t search the van.
Authorities soon discovered that she had withdrawn $10,000 in cash, taken guns from her home, purchased a vehicle, and bought hair dye to disguise their appearances. Young and the prisoner were captured two weeks later in Tennessee.
Young pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the escape. In July she was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Manard, who is serving a life sentence for committing a murder during a carjacking, recently pleaded not guilty to the charge of escaping from prison. (I’d guess plea bargaining is not an option for him.)
But in spite of the bad nationwide publicity, Warden David McKune didn’t even consider closing the program, according to a story by MSNBC. He feels the program is far more important than any one person.
Since the beginning of the program in August 2004, over 1200 dogs that have been destined for doggie death row have been adopted. No tax dollars are involved. It is totally financed by donations and a $150 adoption fee that covers vaccinations, spaying and neutering.
The dogs love the attention and the prisoners love the dogs. Each day about 100 inmates work with some 50 dogs to socialize and teach basic obedience, or in some cases train them as service dogs.
The dogs serve as therapy for the prisoners. “They may be having a crummy day,” the Warden said, “and a dog comes up and starts licking them and things look better for them.” Prisoners train the dogs, play with them, make leather leashes and collars or crochet sweaters for them.