Pets are good for us: there’s plenty of evidence that they enhance our lives in many ways. However in the past, little has been done to celebrate the importance of pets, and there’s surprisingly scant focus in our society on the strongly positive aspects of pet keeping.
A recent competition, the Purina Better With Pets Prize, launched by Purina Petcare, set out to identify enterprises across Europe that harness the positive power of the pet-human bond. A prize fund of £76,000 was shared by the winner and highly-commended finalists, with over a hundred entrants being received from across Europe.
Advantages of having a pet
There were three aspects of humans and animals being together that were used as the underlying theme of the competition. These tie in with the broad concept of One Health that is increasingly being seen internationally as the optimal way of viewing humans and animals living in proximity to one another.
Healthier together Pets are known to enhance human health in a number of ways. The competition sought out community-focused initiatives and innovations that helped people and their pets to live active and healthy lives together.
Connecting together Pets can provide an effective way of helping people deal with common issues like loneliness and depression, both by providing company for people living on their own, and also by acting as social enablers. The Purina Better With Pets Prize searched for initiatives that used the human-animal bond to promote better emotional well-being, to help foster and cultivate empathy in a community, and to assist with emotional self-care.
Enjoying spaces together Increased urbanisation and stricter regulations mean that there are now fewer pet-friendly open spaces than in the past. The competition sought out enterprises that encouraged people and pets to spend time together in the same environment, preferably with a social or economic aspect, such as pets being involved in work environments or social contexts.
Prize winners needed to score on extra aspects of their enterprise
As well as these underlying themes, there were six further criteria that were used to judge entries to the award.
- Innovation New ways of thinking are essential for the world to progress, whether these involve rethinking traditional activities or starting entirely new initiatives
- Social impact Pets can have a significant impact on human social lives, and the Purina Better With Pets Prize sought out initiatives that had a quantifiable social impact, and that had already been proven on a small scale, or using a pilot study.
- Potential for scaling up and/or replication
The best new ideas have the capacity to be used in different cultural, geographic and social environments, and this aspect of the enterprises was an important part of judging process.
Financial viability For long term success, innovative ideas need to have a business model that demonstrates that they are able to be financially sustainable into the future
Organisational leadership The individuals behind successful enterprises must have leadership capacity, with credibility in their fields, the ability to encourage others, and the skill to leverage their success effectively to take their idea on from strength to strength.
Potential for creating shared value
A key criteria of the competition was that the winning prize should go to a win-win-win enterprise, which created value for society at large, for pets, and for people whether they are working, at leisure, or just living their daily lives.
The competition was judged last month in Barcelona – close to Purina’s European digital and advocacy hub. Each of five short-listed finalists gave a Ted-talk like presentation as a pitch to the judges. There were two entries from the United Kingdom, two from the Netherlands, and one from Germany.
The first prize ended up being divided to allow all finalists to share the winnings
The competition was such a close call that in the end, the panel of judges decided to split the prize fund, rather than awarding the full amount to a single enterprise. The winner, receiving approximately £30,000 was the OOPOEH Foundation from the Netherlands, which uses online technology to link elderly people, isolated in their own homes, with dogs living in their neighbourhood whose owners were looking for daytime companions for their pets.
Each of the remaining finalists received highly-commended recognition and approximately £11,500, including entries from the UK (Medical Detection Dogs and Canine Hope), alongside German organisation, K9 Hundekunde which wants to improve the standards for assistance dogs to be used in schools as part of educational programmes, and Dutch Cell Dogs from the Netherlands that works with prison inmates to help them train shelter dogs for rehoming.
The entries from the United Kingdom are both remarkable success stories already, and their stories deserve to be told for their own merits. Watch this space over the next two weeks to learn more about Medical Detection Dogs and Canine Hope: two inspiring tales of how pets can enhance the lives of the humans around them.