Volunteer brings troubled felines to inmates, who help tame them

MONROE — She brings cats to convicted criminals in hopes that the two might help each other.

Karen Stone volunteers with the kitten foster program at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

The prison program is part of Purrfect PalsCQ, a nonprofit that runs a no-kill cat shelter and sanctuary in Arlington.

The nonprofit brings its most unruly kittens and cats to the inmates in the special offenders unit at the prison. They work to tame the felines so they can eventually be placed with families.

“The inmates tell us ‘we’ve got nothing but time,’ ” Stone said. “And these cats are the difficult ones that might otherwise be euthanized. It’s a win-win.”

Earning one of about a dozen spots in the program is highly coveted by the inmates, Stone said. They must have excellent behavior, good hygiene, psychiatric stability, a positive social attitude and meet other strict criteria to work with the animals.

Having something to motivate the inmates makes it easier to for prison staff to manage them, Stone said.

“When you’re in the room with these guys, it’s like you’re in a room with anyone else,” she said. “We know these guys have done horrible things but animals really round out the rough edges in people.”

Stone, a veterinary technician, got involved two years ago after reading about the program. She went through training with the nonprofit and the prison.

Now, about 100 cats are tamed through the program each year, Stone said.

“It’s funny because you’ve got these gnarly looking guys with little kittens under their chins,” Stone said. “They’re our partners in this program. Like it or not, we’re partners. And they know they’re contributing something good.”

Purrfect Pals works to place felines in permanent homes, regardless of medical or behavioral problems. The shelter works to match the pet with the right family.

Stone said the inmates often write messages about the cats they cared for to give to the families that will provide them with a home.

Purrfect Pals also operates a free spay and neuter clinic and offers low-cost vaccines and flea treatments. The shelter also has a community pet food bank for people who are struggling financially or those who care for feral cats.

The nonprofit has raised about half of the $1.1 million it needs to expand the shelter. The group plans to move into a new, 4,000 square-foot building so more cats can be taken care of and services can be improved.

One of the inmates who works in the prison program wrote about what raising the kittens has meant to him for an upcoming fundraiser for Purrfect Pals.

“Prison is a place of fear, pain, confusion, anger and hate,” he wrote. “To be able to create trust in a cat who has either never known or has lost that trust, to me, is a job, a feeling of accomplishment that you don’t find in prison.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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For more information about the nonprofit, go to purrfectpals.org.

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