I knew I liked Ed Rendell.

I especially sympathized with him when he blew up at "60 Minutes" correspondent Leslie Stahl a couple weeks ago over her repeated questions about whether Pennsylvania casinos were fueling compulsive gambling . Rendell's point was obvious and perfectly legitmate (even if it's bad news for Atlantic City): Gambling is everywhere. He's not creating problem gamblers - he's just redirecting their money into Pennsylvania's coffers rather than New Jersey's.

But now I really know I like him: The first project the guy targets after leaving office is one that http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/20110118_Rendell_wants_to_solve_2_problems_with_one_program__dogs_for_inmates.html" target="_blank">creates a network of animal shelters at state prisons. The idea, first, is to help out struggling shelters. In Pennsylvania, at least, many of them have stopped accepting strays. And, secondly, it helps prisoners, who bond with the animals and learn a sense of responsibility. Similar programs been successful at several prisons in Pennslvania and elsewhere, although it does cost money.

Rendell has pledged to raise funds for the effort.

What a terrific idea.

Some forms of this program exist in New Jersey. Some prisons in North Jersey, for example, train dogs for service use. But I'm not aware of a similar program here that houses strays in prisons, relieving the pressure on stressed animal shelters and helping prisoners as well.

In financially strapped New Jersey, there's no way the state could put money into something like this. But wouldn't it be great if some animal-loving politicians could figure out a way to facilitate an effort here, similar to what Rendell is pushing? (Maybe Cape May, Cumberland Sen. Jeff Van Drew, whose district includes a state prison?)

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