Project POOCH (POOCH is an acronym for "Positive Opportunities, Obvious Change with Hounds") is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that aims to rehabilitate incarcerated youths by actively training difficult-to-adopt dogs.
In 1993, the program was started by Joan Dalton at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Oregon, United States. The program's success has garnered it international attention, with similar programs established in Korea and Scotland, as well as Japanese television shows and documentaries about the program. The project has also been featured on Animal Planet.
Dogs from local animal shelters are taken in by Project POOCH and paired with young offenders, most of whom have been convicted of serious crimes such as murder and sexual assault. The dogs often have behavioral problems, including excessive barking or aggression.
For her doctoral dissertation, Sandra Merriam-Aduini studied the effects of Project POOCH had on violent, incarcerated male juveniles inmates, studying effects on recidivism, reformation, and behavioral changes linked to human-animal interactions emphasizing responsibility, patience, and compassion. Between 1993 and 1999, Dr. Merriam-Aduini found zero recidivism of POOCH participants and that the program achieved educational expectations and judicial orders with success rates, including marked behavior improvements in "respect for authority, social interaction and leadership" as well as "growth in areas of honesty, empathy, nurturing, social growth, understanding, confidence level and pride of accomplishment".
"Rehabilitated" dogs are subsequently adopted by new homes following behavioral tests.
- Hill, Nancy (March 13, 2007). "From problem to pet: Project helps dogs, youths find new direction". The Portland Tribune. Archived from the original on May 3, 2011.
- Seenan, Gerard (October 8, 2004). "Unwanted dogs bring criminals to heel". Guardian Unlimited. Archived from the original on May 3, 2011.
- Merriam-Arduini, S. (2000). Evaluation of a Special Program for Violent, Incarcerated, Male Junveniles in the State of Oregon (Ph.D, Pepperdine University). DiscoverN PublishingCo.
- Strimple, Earl O. (2003). "A History of Prison Inmate-Animal Interaction Programs". American Behavioral Scientist. 47 (1): 70–78. doi:10.1177/0002764203255212. ISSN 0002-7642. OCLC 437868835. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 3, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2011.