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Cocchi Will Implement Pets For Prisoners Program, Saving Stray Dogs and Healing Inmates.


Dogs Are Able To Get and Give, A New Lease (and Leash) On Life.


(Hampden County, MA) Nick Cocchi, Assistant Superintendent of The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and a candidate for Sheriff, announced that a priority for him if he earns the right to serve as the County’s new Sheriff is to implement an idea that he has been discussing with other officials from the law enforcement and animal care communities for the past year. Cocchi will implement a Healing Pets Program at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department.


“This has been a passion of mine for a long time. This is a program that I know will have incredible benefits for both our inmate and addiction recovery communities in the Sheriff’s Department and for the stray and unwanted dogs that are too often lost to euthanasia. It can provide healing for inmates and for these dogs that need care. I’ve talked to Sheriff’s from around the country about their similar programs and I know we can do this here, saving the taxpayers in many of Hampden County’s cities and towns from the cost and pain of euthanizing these incredible canine souls that can reach some inmates and addicts like no other therapist can,” said Cocchi.


“Our objective is to partner with entities in Hampden County that are responsible for taking strays off the streets, from municipalities with dog officer programs like Wilbraham, Westfield or West Springfield, to the communities that work with The Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center. Instead of euthanizing these dogs when no one wants them, we will take them. We want them and from the programs I’ve looked at, like Paws for Life, the inmates and recovering community members entrusted to us, need them. Lives are saved both ways,” said Cocchi.


“Many people are willing to help us implement this program, from private kennel owners to people who just love dogs. We will form a committee of dog-lovers and experts in pet therapies, all interested private citizens, to oversee this effort. In-house, we will look to our own K-9 Unit experts to advise and ensure the safety and health of both the dogs and inmates. It is well-established that “comfort animals” can become a life-line for inmates when therapists just can’t reach them. The dogs are tax-payer friendly, they just require love and food. We’ve seen evidence that inmates will develop confidence, responsibility, patience and nurturing habits that benefit them and their families after their time with us,” said Cocchi. 


“At a recent Department of Justice Symposium I attended to share strategies and programs we use at the HCSD, I had the opportunity to discuss this idea with Sheriff’s and Correctional Administrators who have such programs. I learned that dogs can diffuse and disarm aggressive inmate behaviors as well as help inmates learn new caring skills, for themselves and others. Some outcomes from these programs have resulted in inmates successfully returning to their community and not offending again, It is amazing how many have pursued their own businesses in animal care-related professions and even gone into various areas of veterinary care. We will discuss these possibilities with Holyoke Community College (HCC) which has a veterinary program. If HCC can successfully run a nationally renowned culinary program for casinos, I know they can collaborate with us in making this project a success,” said Cocchi.