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Guard Geese replace dogs at this prison!

OMG. I want some of these geese to patrol my front yard. Who needs a fricken dog!

“They hate everyone,” says Souza, as one of the most vicious geese agents, Tweety, sidles up to him before charging at the beefy cop. Neck outstretched and hissing, Tweety quickly forces the prison director out of their enclosure. “They have zero loyalty, even to the people who feed them every single day,” he says.

Even Hardened Convicts Are No Match for These Guard Geese

Dogs napped too much and were susceptible to bribes, so the warden of a Brazilian prison turned to feathered allies to prevent escapes

Geese patrol the perimeter of a Brazilian prison.

By Samantha Pearson, WSJ

June 5, 2024 9:55 am ET

SÃO PEDRO DE ALCÂNTARA, Brazil—A prison in southern Brazil has come up with a novel way to bolster security: replacing guard dogs with geese.

A squadron of nine silky-feathered birds—the “geese agents,” as guards call them—now patrol the grassy strip of land between the inner fence and the outer wall at the high-security prison here in São Pedro de Alcântara, a small town some 400 miles north of the border with Uruguay.

Fiercely territorial, the fiendish nine-pounders can be surprisingly intimidating, charging at anyone who dares enter their enclosure and unleashing a deafening cacophony of honks and shrieks that serves to alert guards if one of the prison’s 1,300 inmates tries to escape.

Their canine predecessors napped all the time and proved too expensive, says the prison’s director, Marcos Souza. The Belgian Malinois that used to roam the prison’s 3,000-foot-long perimeter wall cost $7,000 each, ate fancy dog food and racked up a small fortune in vet bills, he said.

“The geese are happy with rice and they never get sick,” Souza explained.

Prison officers first got the idea a few years ago when they were cornered by a gaggle of angry geese during a barbecue. Like in many of Brazil’s underfunded jails, the prison’s then-director was struggling to make ends meet and agreed to give them a shot at patrolling the grounds.

“The geese are like colleagues for me,” says Marcos Coronetti, a prison officer, recoiling at the question of whether he likes the taste. “God no, I’ve never eaten one.”

Local farmers already use geese in the region to ward off intruders—a tradition that goes back to Roman times when, as legend has it, geese took on the role of sentinels, sounding the alarm when Gallic warriors invaded about 390 B.C. and saved Rome.

But it turns out that geese offer another big advantage for Brazil’s prisons: They can’t be bribed. While dogs may be won over with a juicy steak and prison guards with a wad of cash, it’s impossible to befriend a goose.

“They hate everyone,” says Souza, as one of the most vicious geese agents, Tweety, sidles up to him before charging at the beefy cop. Neck outstretched and hissing, Tweety quickly forces the prison director out of their enclosure. “They have zero loyalty, even to the people who feed them every single day,” he says.

That means staff can delegate the task of looking after the birds to the prisoners themselves, safe in the knowledge that the geese would easily rat out their handlers if needed. Each day, a small group of inmates are let out of their cells for good behavior to complete odd jobs around the prison yard, from construction to work in the prison’s metal workshop.

Feeding the geese is one of the most feared tasks, says one inmate, who is serving a 20-year sentence for murder and robbery, recalling the trauma of once being attacked by the birds when he was called on to do some maintenance work inside their enclosure.

“I went inside to fix the gate once and they all came at me,” says the inmate, dressed in an orange jumpsuit as he took a break from soldering.

Tweety and the other feathered recruits come into their own at night as an eerie silence falls over the prison, which is nestled in a forest on the outskirts of the town, a former enclave of German immigrants.

Light sleepers and equipped with excellent night vision and keen hearing, the geese can detect even the smallest disturbance along the 26-foot-high prison wall, Coronetti says.

“I’ve worked the night shift before and it can be raining or bitterly cold, but they’re always on patrol, waddling along, stopping, waddling some more,” he says. “It’s a mystery as to when they sleep.”

The idea is catching on, and other prisons are taking a gander at using geese guards. At one prison in Brazil’s most southerly state of Rio Grande do Sul, the staff recently employed geese to alert officers when packages—typically cellphones or drugs—were catapulted into the prison for inmates.

Whether geese can solve all of Brazil’s prison problems remains to be seen. Police recently uncovered stocks of dynamite at a jail in the neighboring state of Paraná and a makeshift distillery at a prison further west, where inmates had been producing rum from leftover bread.

Drug gangs dominate many of the country’s jails, overseeing the sale of everything from candy bars to Viagra and executing enemies at will. A police investigation earlier this year showed that gangs had taken over even the most mundane aspects of the day-to-day management of a prison in Minas Gerais state, from renting out the soccer pitch to inmates to doing the prison’s books.

Prison breaks are common. One prisoner escapes every day on average in Brazil, many through the front gate after bribing guards.

But here in São Pedro de Alcântara, the geese brigade have so far proved infallible, gaining fame across the region and a loyal following on Instagram.

“We post something about our work and we get maybe 1,000 likes, but post a picture of the damned geese and they get at least 7,000,” says Souza, setting off on a tour of the grounds.

He is keen to point out that the prison, home to some of the region’s most dangerous criminals, isn’t just patrolled by nine birds.

“We’ve got guns, 7.62mm and 5.56mm rifles,” says Souza, reeling off the prison’s heavy weaponry before directing one of the armed guards to pose menacingly for photos atop the watchtower. “The geese are just, let’s say, an additional security measure.”

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