Good Neighbors introduces a Main Line resident whose volunteer contributions make a difference: Marian V. Marchese, Founder and CEO of New Leash on Life USA whose team of over 100 local volunteers provided services to 383 justice-impacted men and women, rescued 249 at-risk shelter dogs and placed them into loving homes.
The organization began in 2011 when Marian identified a need for a “new generation” inmate dog-training program. Her approach was unique in its inclusion of explicit developmental opportunities for the inmates and the resulting organization was founded with the express goals of reducing the recidivism rates among justice-involved individuals, improving the conditions and morale for its incarcerated participants, and enhancing the adoptability of abandoned and abused dogs from local high-kill shelters, half of whose lives are terminated because of a lack of resources or humane alternatives.
New Leash is a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation with an innovative reform model leveraging the powerful bond between dogs and humans, with a mission to reduce recidivism and save the lives of at-risk dogs. The model begins during incarceration with an intensive program teaching practical life and social-emotional skills and extends to high-quality case management upon release preparing men and women for a successful transition reentering society.
What was your motivation to start New Leash on Life?
I volunteered one Christmas day in 2007 at a shelter. I was appalled at the condition of the shelter then (it is much improved today) and the hundreds of animals in cages who had been abandoned, abused, neglected or just unwanted. That day I vowed to do something with my life that would give these creatures a second chance. By combining that passion with social justice, New Leash is able to leverage the powerful animal-human bond to bring out the best in vulnerable people while giving the dogs 24-hour a day love and attention in the prison while they heal and relearn to trust humans again.
What stands out as a transformation story?
New Leash rescued a dog that had been used as bait in a dog-fighting ring. She was completely shut down and emotionally and physically broken. We took her to prison where she was paired with a handler who showered her with love, patience and care. Today this dog is a certified therapy dog and one of the Purina Ambassador Therapy dogs. She also has spent many hours at the Ronald McDonald House playing with the children who are sick.
Would you share something funny that happened at your organization?
One of our smallest dogs (6 pounds) was adopted by the prison and spends his days walking around making people feel better. He has his own prison security badge and visits people in their cells and administrative staff in their offices. He thinks he owns the prison!
Does your family get involved?
My husband Stephen is an Egyptologist and works at the Penn Museum. He gives lectures to schools, community groups, libraries, alumni groups, private individuals and retirement communities. He created a presentation that talks about pets during the time of the pharaohs and ties in into the work that New Leash is doing. It is a very popular lecture!
Who do you admire most?
Jane Goodall for her lifetime of caring and conservation. For over 60 years, Dr. Goodall has helped save chimpanzees from extinction and redefined species conservation. She travels the world urging us all to take action on behalf of all living things and the planet we share.
What’s your favorite TV series?
Anything on Britbox, Acorn or PBS. I love British television.
New Leash on Life USA, a 501(c) (3) non-profit recidivism reduction program dedicated to rescuing dogs and improving the lives of vulnerable people.