Prisoners Care for Deaf Dogs Displaced by Wildfire

The so-called Sand Fire that burned for over a week near Los Angeles didn’t only threaten wildlife sanctuaries. Soon after the wildfire started on July 22, Mark and Lisa Tipton, owners of Deaf Dog Rescue of America (DDRA), a non-profit organization that rescues, trains and rehomes hearing-impaired dogs, decided it was better to be safe than sorry. They evacuated the rescue ranch’s nearly 50 residents.

“It was no small feat to assemble crates, pack them into trucks and trailers, and load the dogs,” Lisa wrote on the DDRA Facebook page. “Backbreaking and stressful. We have wonderful paid kennel staff here which is why we were able to evacuate the dogs so smoothly. Nobody got bitten, no loose dogs, no drugs were used. They stayed with us in our time of need and they were rock stars.”

The Tiptons were eventually able to find a temporary home for the dogs at the California state prison in Lancaster, which invited them to bring the dogs there. Mark happens to operate the Karma Rescue Paws for Life dog-training program for the prison’s inmates. It is California’s first and only dog program in a high-security prison. Many of the participants are serving life sentences.

In this program, dogs rescued from high-kill shelters around Los Angeles County live full-time with the participating inmates. Over a 12-week period, the inmates learn how to train the dogs for Canine Good Citizen certification. This certification helps the dogs become more adoptable and, in turn, helps save more dogs from shelters. The inmates benefit by learning real-world skills and giving back to society by helping these dogs get another chance at life.

“Paws for Life restored my faith in humanity that I’m a person, that I matter,” inmate trainer Jon Grobman told KABC. “It gave me the opportunity to care for something, love something.”

In the two years the program has been offered at the Lancaster prison, 75 former death-row dogs have found forever homes.

‘They Were Thriving Under Their Care’

After the Tiptons dropped off the dogs, they returned to the DDRA ranch to check on the fire, get some sleep and gather up more supplies for the dogs.

“The dogs were bewildered and watched us walk out the gates,” Lisa wrote on Facebook. “The looks on their faces made me cry when things quieted down and I had time to think about it. I have to admit that I felt guilty leaving them there.”

The couple returned to the prison the next morning with food for the dogs – which, along with the feelings of guilt, wasn’t necessary.

“The inmates had handled breakfast beautifully,” Lisa wrote. “They were getting the dogs out for exercise and cleaning their runs… I have never, ever seen anyone clean up dog poop with such glee.”

Nor had she ever seen the dogs so comfortable around strangers. “[They] were thriving under their care,” Lisa wrote, “and had wagging tales and smiles on their faces.”

Thankfully, DDRA survived the Sand Fire. All the dogs returned to their home July 30.

“Can pretty much guarantee that when they are all safely in their kennels snoring,” Lisa wrote, “I’m going to melt into a huge puddle of tears from sheer thankfulness and relief.”

For more information about the rescue, visit the Deaf Dog Rescue of America website.

L.A. Detention Center May Get an Animal Shelter

Coincidentally, while the inmates at the Lancaster prison were caring for the displaced deaf dogs, L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich proposed that, to help with overcrowding in animal shelters, a new one should be built at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

In his proposal, Antonovich cited successful prison programs similar to Lancaster’s Paws for Life.

“Such a program could be a cost-effective and progressive way to integrate the needed care of animals with positive benefits to our inmates,” he wrote.

The feasibility of such a shelter is being analyzed by county animal welfare officials and the sheriff’s department. A report on their findings is expected later this month.

Photo credit: YouTube


John B
John B9 months ago

Thanks Laura for sharing the info and video.

Laurice Gilbert
Laurice Gilbertabout a year ago

what a great story

william Miller
william Millerabout a year ago


MARĂŤA D'Oportoabout a year ago

Great work, perfect ends for animals and inmates!

federico bortoletto

Una stupenda idea!!!

Shin Takahashi
Shin T1 years ago

Thank you for the all those who help the displaced dog and who shared the post.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jane R.
Jane R1 years ago

What a wonderful idea. All prisons should consider taking in homeless dogs temporarily. It's great for the dogs and boosts the moral of the inmates. Everyone wins,

Monica R.
Monica R1 years ago

Wonderful for the dogs and the prisoners!

Pauline Chinen
.1 years ago