In addition to creating organic, hand-batched skincare products, we take pride in giving back to the community by partnering with impactful non-profits. One of our partners is New Leash on Life USA, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reduce recidivism and save the lives of at-risk dogs. They accomplish this with an innovative reform model that leverages the powerful bond between dogs and humans.
On why our founder Frances Thrasher chose New Leash on Life, she says, “A few years ago I began learning about the challenges faced by people re-entering society after being incarcerated and the monumental challenges they face. When I read about New Leash on Life, I was overcome with emotion…a charity that saves the lives of unwanted animals and allows these people and animals to heal and help each other. I immediately wanted to be involved and spread the word with our Kindred Skincare Family. After speaking with the founder, Marian, I knew we had to share their amazing work.”
Below Marian Marchese, Founder and CEO of New Leash on Life USA, shares how the program works, why she organized the nonprofit, and what we can all do to help.
What prompted you to start New Leash on Life, Marian?
I was volunteering at a local shelter that was underfunded and understaffed. I saw these wonderful dogs that needed homes but there weren’t enough fosters, or adopters. And there were extremely limited resources to train or heal dogs with behavior or medical issues. Sadly, they had to be put down to make room for incoming dogs. It broke my heart and I vowed to do something with my life that would help these dogs stay alive and find loving homes.
Can you share how the program works?
The program begins pre-release with a 12-week session in the Philadelphia Department of Prisons. People experiencing incarceration are provided with life skills and career readiness workshops, interview coaching, resume writing, and support to develop life plans. The program includes a dog training component that teaches practical life skills with structured training and intensive interaction with dogs. By using the proven training methods of positive reinforcement, the handlers learn a set of professionally applicable skills that help them increase their own chances of a successful transition into society and full-time employment.
Upon release, returning citizens participate in 12-weeks of reentry support with a licensed social worker. Transportation passes are provided, along with 60 days of paid internships in local businesses and organizations. Full-time job placement is the ultimate goal.
What made you decide to get involved with the prison system?
I had seen a documentary about prison dog programs in other parts of the country. It was a phenomenal idea because the people experiencing incarceration gave these dogs unconditional love, care, and training until they were adopted. I looked around Philadelphia thinking I would join a similar program. When I discovered Philadelphia didn’t have a prison dog program, I decided to start one. The Philadelphia Department of Prisons welcomed us with loving arms. They saw immediately the benefit of having dogs as part of a reentry program that would reduce recidivism. They have been phenomenal partners all along the way.
How do you decide what dog to pair with each participant?
We don’t meet the participants until the day the program starts. Then we have one week to orient them to the program and access their experience and comfort with handling dogs. The next week we go to the shelter, select the dogs, and then our dog trainer determines which dog will be the best fit for each pair of handlers. We’ve actually had participants who were afraid of dogs sign up for the program. Needless to say, by the time graduation rolled around, they were inseparable.
What is the success rate?
Our 3-year recidivism rate is 21.4% versus the general prison population rate of 66%. We have also found permanent jobs for a lot of our graduates. 100% of our dogs were adopted into loving homes. Many of these dogs were slated to be euthanized for medical and behavioral issues or simply because there was no more space.
How can people donate and/or support the organization?
There are several ways to support and donate to us. Visit our website and under the “Donate” tab, you can donate by check, credit card, or PayPal. There’s also a tab for “Other Ways To Give” that includes Amazon Smile (with our wish list of items) and United Way. In the “Get Involved” tab you can learn how to sponsor a dog. And of course, we are always looking for volunteers and fosters.
How can businesses get involved? (Can businesses offer employment opportunities?)
We would love to have new companies and organizations that would like to have one of our graduates for two months. We pay the interns, provide transportation, and work with the internship site to make sure there is a successful outcome. We also have Corporate Sponsor opportunities in the “Get Involved” tab on the website. For businesses that work with United Way, we can arrange a site visit with a dog to explain our program to employees.
We are so appreciative of Marian taking the time to share her passion and information about New Leash on Life USA. For more information, check out their website, and click here for more information about Kindred’s nonprofit partners.