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Stray dogs help Serbian prisoners cope with life behind bars

Serbian prisoners work with stray dogs on social integration programme dog-wow
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Everyone deserves a second chance, and these Serbian prisoners are no exception. Working in collaboration with stray dogs offers both humans and canines a new lease on life.

By Dawn Parrish , 6 Jun 2019

Dusan Steric, a 49 year-old prisoner couldn’t picture his life beyond his incarceration in the Balkan Jail. That is, until he took part in the social reintegration scheme organised by The Sremska Mitrovica programme.

A social integration scheme is set up

It all began when the Balkan town was struggling with a stray dog population. Officials asked that the inmates help to build a shelter for stray dogs on the prison grounds. The governor at the prison thought that it would be beneficial to introduce a social integration scheme, between the Serbian prisoners and these many stray dogs.

With help from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a programme was launched which allowed the prisoners to spend 2 hours every day working with the dogs. The canines, many of whom are quite aggressive after being used to the stray dog life, are taught basic commands.

The aim is to get the dogs ready for adoption

The main goal of the programme is to get these stray dogs more prepared for adoption. At the same time, it’s giving the Serbian prisoners a second chance to rehabilitate and earn employment, with many of them going on to work in zoos or animal shelters.

Dusan says his life has changed since working with Cupko, a shaggy stray dog. The two have bonded really well while working together on this prison initiative and Dusan hopes to adopt Cupko when he is released from prison in 6 months’ time.

Overcrowding is a huge problem in Serbia’s prisons

The jails in the Balkans are some of the most overcrowded in Europe. Human rights surveys also report inhumane and degrading conditions for many of the prisoners.

Since the social integration scheme has been set up at the Sremska Mitrovica jail, around 80 prisoners have taken part over a 10-week period. At this time, the scheme is only available for those prisoners that have committed lesser offences, but prison officers hope to introduce it to more high security and also juvenile divisions.


Dusan and Cupko both lost their way in life before finding themselves behind bars in Serbia's largest prison. Now the...

Posted by Welcome to the Machine on Tuesday, June 4, 2019

There is great hope that not only the Serbian prisoners, but also the many hundreds of stray dogs, will all benefit from this social integration scheme.