Allendale County in South Carolina, known for its poverty-stricken conditions with an average household income of $25,327 and limited access to pet care services, is defying the odds with an impactful animal welfare program.
In 2013, the warden of Allendale Correctional Institute partnered with Vikki Scott from Animal Advocates, a local rescue organization. Animal Advocates has a remarkable 12-year history of rescuing animals from overcrowded shelters and has helped address an alarming euthanasia rate as high as 98%.
Their collaborative effort resulted in the MeowMates program, initially trialed with two cats living in the prison cells alongside prisoners, whom Vikki fondly refers to as “pet dads.” These incarcerated individuals play an essential role in socializing and caring for the cats, fostering a genuine compassion for animals in need. The program has even extended its reach to include feral cats, exemplified by the successful transformation of Tallulah, a once-fierce feral cat.
The MeowMates program has also seen success in raising 18 motherless feral kittens, educating men with no prior animal experience in providing care and nurturing for these vulnerable creatures. Additionally, the MuttMates program brings together a group of dogs, allowing all animals at the correctional institute to benefit from temporary homes and eventual adoption opportunities.
The outstanding work of Animal Advocates has garnered national attention, with renowned cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy commending their forward-thinking approach. Their dedication has earned them recognition as finalists in the Innovation Showdown competition, where they were awarded $5,000 to expand their MeowMates and MuttMates programs.
Through their continued efforts, Animal Advocates aims to welcome more helping hands to their rural area, saving the lives of as many animals as possible and leaving a lasting impact on the prisoners who have developed empathy through caring for these animals.