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Eastern State Penitentiary Hosts "Family Weekend: Pets in Prison" on Saturday and Sunday, August 9 and 10

PHILADELPHIA, July 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Eastern State Penitentiary will host "Family Weekend: Pets in Prison" on Saturday and Sunday, August 9 and 10 and again on September 27 and 28. The event, designed for kids and adults of all ages, will feature interactive and educational activities all weekend long. Visitors can learn about the role of animals throughout Eastern State's history, meet (and adopt) shelter dogs from a local prison-training program, and participate in animal-themed activities.

Family Weekend: Pets in Prison at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Visitors can discover unique stories about animals throughout Eastern State's history and how animals continue to play a role in prisons today. Photo: New Leash on Life USA, Jack McMahon III. (PRNewsFoto/Eastern State Penitentiary)

From 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., families can participate in an animal-themed scavenger hunt; learn more about Eastern State Penitentiary's most famous four-legged resident, Pep the Dog; and learn about other animals throughout the prison's history. Some furry (and some creepy-crawly) creatures once lived behind Eastern State Penitentiary's walls. Some prisoners kept pets in solitary confinement, and a colony of feral cats occupied the property when the prison was abandoned. Officers once patrolled the grounds on horseback and kept German Shepherds for security.

Beginning at 1:00 p.m. each day, Norberto "Rob" Rosa, Director of Operations for New Leash on Life USA, a Pennsylvania prison dog training program, will speak to visitors about his experience training dogs as an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford (SCIG), and how it ultimately affected his life and career. This 15-minute presentation will be followed by a brief Q&A and will culminate in a dog training expo. Several dogs, trained by local inmates, will demonstrate for visitors the commands and tricks they have learned through the New Leash on Life USA program. 

Following the presentation, visitors to the historic site can meet the dogs and, if interested, can adopt any dogs that haven't yet found homes.  On Saturday, August 9, an additional adoption meet-and-greet will take place in the entrance to the penitentiary from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

All Family Weekend activities are included in standard admission. Regular daytime programs, including "The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, guided Hands-On History tours, history exhibits, and artist installations, are also included in admission. Tickets are available online at Tickets are also available at the door, subject to availability.

About New Leash on Life USA
New Leash on Life USA is a Pennsylvania 501(c)(3) nonprofit prison dog training program, dedicated to improving the life of inmates and saving the lives of dogs. The organization saves the lives of at-risk shelter dogs by training prison inmates to care for, and socialize them to enhance their adoptability. Inmates attend workshops on life skills and job readiness, and many receive opportunities for paid internships in the animal care field when they are paroled. Previously "unadoptable" shelter dogs, many at the brink of death, now find loving forever homes. Additionally, inmates who have been in and out of prison most of their adulthood now have a skill they can use to gain productive employment. Improving the lives of inmates and saving the lives of dogs, New Leash on Life USA believes that everyone deserves a second chance.

For more information, visit

About Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers. Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world's first true "penitentiary," a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of convicts. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America's most notorious criminals, including bank robber "Slick Willie" Sutton and Al Capone.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is located at 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue, just five blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $10 for students and children ages 7-12. (Not recommended for children under the age of seven.) Admission includes "The Voices of Eastern State" Audio Tour, narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Hands-On History interactive experiences; history exhibits; and a critically acclaimed series of artist installations.

For more information and schedules, the public should call (215) 236-3300 or visit

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SOURCE Eastern State Penitentiary

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