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Is it right that jail is going to the dogs?

The Arizona Republic June 10, 2000

The tough-guy image of Sheriff Joe Arpaio - the man who brought us pink underwear for inmates, Tent City and chain gangs - just got a Madison Avenue makeover.

Call it diversification with a soft heart.

But unchanged is what some view as his shameless nose for news and mugging for the camera.

This week Arpaio opened a floor of the First Avenue Jail to dogs. They'll lounge about in air-conditioned comfort in cells and inmates will care for them. The dogs will be fed at an estimated cost of $1.15 per day, which is more than the average cost of feeding an inmate.

Not to worry, because the sheriff plans to ask for donations - and he's been a wizard at buying food at bargain rates to feed his inmates; everything from emus and ostrich to cases of corndogs.

Meanwhile, see Spot romp and play in the recreation center on the jail's roof. If this seems like an odd juxtaposition to inmates who are double-bunked in cells without air conditioning and who must endure triple-digit temperatures in Tent City, well, that's the way it is under the reign of the Tough One.

"We closed the First Avenue Jail six months ago," Sheriff Joe says. "It's got plumbing problems that'll cost millions to fix. We'll have a new jail in three years. It's empty. Why not save the dogs and cats by using that space?"

It's a good question. His animal cruelty enforcement unit investigates 300 alleged abuse cases a month. And when you investigate, sometimes you have to keep the animals for evidence, Arpaio points out. But, critics ask, wouldn't showing a picture in court of the abused animal do?

These rescued animals indeed are victims, but wouldn't turning them over immediately to animal shelters for adoption be just as good?

We know that pets can be a comfort to the sick and the elderly. Whether they can work their magic on people waiting for trial remains to be seen.

Sheriff Joe wants to take it a step further. He sees the pets as part of an educational program that will teach his inmates the care and respect of animals. In time, he envisions the building of kennels at Tent City.

For now, he says he has room for 70 to 80 pets.

What happens when the cells are full of yapping dogs and meowing cats?

"That's something we'll face in the future," Arpaio says. "I wish I had room for 50,000 dogs and cats.

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), June 10, 2000


Very interesting story! I've always thought the sheriff was just a plain whore for publicity, but the scheme does have merits... Maybe if we can teach even a few of these criminals the value of life through a pet, then it will be well worth it!! Maybe a pet can reach through and form a bond that another human just couldn't do for what ever reason.... I'll give it a while before I pass judgement on this one....

-- Rob (, June 10, 2000.

Sheriff Joe showed up at a Phoenix pharmacy convention a couple of years ago. Can't imagine why he thought a few hundred claims processing geeks would be interested in his pink underware pitch. Got a hunch he checks to see who's in town and invites himself.

Still, bet he could get elected Sheriff in most any county in the country.

-- Carlos (, June 10, 2000.

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