Connecting Lives - Project for the social reintegration of prisoners through empathy for animals

People aiding animals and animals aiding people. This reciprocal cycle of well-being is made possible thanks to our innovative Save the Dogs project that involves inmates from the Poarta Alba prison in Romania, allowing them to participate in hands-on workshops and volunteer work to enhance their social reintegration. This collaboration between animals and people serves as mutual support and alleviates their mutual hardships.

The context

Like the majority of prisons in Romania, the Poarta Alba prison facility suffers from constant overcrowding, with the number of inmates often exceeding maximum capacity.

In Romania, there is a significant challenge with the high re-offending rate, which reaches almost 40% annually. Upon re-entering society, former inmates frequently encounter difficulties socially and lack the necessary job skills.

Although Romanian law requires the establishment of vocational training courses and social activities within prisons, the institutions face obstacles in implementing these due to a lack of staff and financial resources.

Collaboration with non-profit organizations such as Save the Dogs is therefore highly endorsed by the prison authorities to address these challenges.

The aims

The overall objective of the project is to promote the social reintegration of inmates of the Poarta Alba prison in Romania, by establishing educational and care programs. These initiatives are designed to foster positive transformation in the lives of the detainees, the animals with whom they interact and, on a broader scale, in their community.

The beneficiaries

Primo progetto in Italia Amici di Strada


Through workshops, training days and taking care of the animals, they develop skills that can be employed once they are reintegrated into the community.

Persone e animali al centro Amici di Strada

The Animals

The items, such as toys and kennels made in the workshops, are donated to the Save the Dogs‘ shelter and to stray dogs and cats that live near the prison.

Consulenza di professionisti Amici di Strada

The Community

The community’s neediest families receive gifts of items made for their animals using recycled materials.

Our intervention

Creating a relationship with the donkeys

Engaging in sessions of Assisted Interventions with donkeys offers inmates an opportunity to socialize while at the same time caring for the equines.

Inmates acquire skills in tending the donkeys and handling basic cleaning and routine maintenance tasks in the stables and enclosures.

Workshops using reclaimed materials

In partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute Global, Save the Dogs has obtained permission to implement the first Roots & Shoots program involving detainees of a psychiatric wing in a prison. 

Roots & Shoots, designed and implemented globally by the Jane Goodall Institute, aims to “foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs, and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals, and the environment.”

During their meetings, which take the form of workshops, inmates use reclaimed materials to create items for cats and dogs, which are then donated to the neediest people in the community, the families of inmates during prison visits, and to animals resident at the Save the Dogs’ shelter.


We would like to thank Unione Buddhista Italiana for supporting the project during the period between November 2023 and October 2024.

This project is funded by the Italian Buddhist Union, thanks to the 8×1000 signatures’ initiative. Since 2017, UBI has backed around 1,000 projects, all marked by efficiency and courage, including environmental advocacy, social justice, hospitality, employment, culture, health, education, and animal welfare.

The project is part of CONNECTING LIVES, a program by Save the Dogs designed to bring positive impact to both animals and vulnerable individuals in the organization’s operational areas. The foundation of this initiative lies in the conviction that those living on the margins of society share a common struggle for rights, and it is only by addressing all aspects together that is it possible to make the world a better place.