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Sheriff Puts Dogs in Jail (It's a good thing)

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Sheriff Puts Dogs in Jail (It's a good thing:)

by Annii Van Shaick Associate Editor

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, is famous all right. He's famous for doing things like constructing a "tent city" jail in the middle of the Arizona desert and using it to house his toughest prisoners, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. While the ACLU and Amnesty International were not amused by the spartan conditions, tough daily regimentation and lack of air-conditioning in tent city, polls show 90% of Arizona residents are pleased with the Sheriff's no-nonsense response to crime. But that's not the half of it. To prevent the black-market theft of prison underpants, Arpaio has ordered all regulation underwear to be dyed pink, and he's got his prisoners wearing old-fashioned striped uniforms with the words ESCAPEE emblazoned on the inside (in case they get any bright ideas about trying to fashion a runaway disguise by turning their clothes inside out).

His latest move has animal-lovers all over America cheering: aside from severely cracking down on animal abuse in the area, Arpaio has moved the dogs and cats who are victims of abuse, or being held as evidence in domestic violence cases, into the air-conditioned, spacious First Avenue jail. And their caretakers? A corps of female prisoners who are busy hugging, petting and looking after these previously unfortunate creatures; painting the insides of the jail with pictures of trees, flowers and fire hydrants, to make them feel at home. is proud to present an interview with a man who cheerfully brags about feeding these animals better than his human prisoners, and who believes that every animal deserves a chance at a good life.

A: What made you decide to house abused and abandoned pets in the First Avenue Jail?

SJ: When you do a law enforcement investigation you have to keep the animals as evidence, sometimes until a judge will rule on whether the person should get the dog back. So where do you put all those pets in the meantime? About eight months ago, I removed all of the inmates from our oldest jail, because it had some plumbing problems. So I got the idea to put all the dogs and cats in those empty cell blocks, which happen to be air-conditioned! Now they have a beautiful place to live - it has beds and everything in there. And inmates look after the pets!

A: Do you think it's therapeutic for the inmates to do this?

SJ: The inmates painted the walls so the animals wouldn't think it looked too much like a jail! They love it. They love taking care of the animals.... they even said "we did wrong and we deserve to be in jail, but these dogs do not deserve to be abused."

A: What do you think it is about living with animals that can help us become better people?

SJ: Well, I love this quote from Gandhi: "The greatness of a nation in its moral progress can be judged by the way people treat animals." Think about that! I did this because I wanted to send a message to everybody that people should stop abusing our dogs and cats. I take risks and I publicize what I do because people need to know what the problems are.

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