Leaving a mark

An Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) Programme for Children Who Have Been Exposed to Gender-Based Violence.

Photo of Josune
0 0

Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Josune Azpiroz Imaz

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Spain

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s)

www.biakbat.eus Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/biakbat/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/biak_bat/?hl=es Twitter: https://twitter.com/biakbat_iaa LInkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/biak-bat-intervenciones-asistidas-con-animales/?viewAsMember=true

Date Started


Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €1k - €10k

Organisation Type

  • nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

Biak Bat, is a non-profit association dedicated to Assisted Animal Interventions. Born in 2011 in Alsasua, as an innovative social project to meet the psychosocial and educational needs met.It is founded by Iosu Méndez and Josune Azpiroz, based on their social commitment and conviction of the great support that animals can provide to people with specific needs. In this way, in 2011 they specialize in the inclusion of animals in therapeutic, educational and leisure processes. Uniting and making one their passions and professions, canine education and psychology, they create Biak Bat, a project to promote the improvement of people's quality of life through interaction with animals. From animal welfare to human wellbeing.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Gender-based violence is one of the most serious social and health problems faced by women around the world. Importantly, it has a negative impact not only on the woman’s health, but also on the children's. Exposure to domestic violence has been associated with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, alongside aggression or other problem behaviours. They may also experience symptoms associated with PTSD, social and academic difficulties

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

AAT are structured therapies involving animals that are employed in health settings with the aim of achieving certain therapeutic benefits or improvements in health and wellbeing The use of AAIs is an emerging notably in the treatment of children and adolescents who have experienced childhood trauma. A key premise here is that the innate qualities of animals can facilitate and maximize the benefits of the therapeutic process For example, research has shown that interacting with or being in the presence of animals can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve certain physiological markers of the stress response and wellbeing. Leaving a mark, is a animal assisted programa for children (6-16 years) who had been exposed to domestic violence. The programme comprises of five modules(establishing a secure base, psychoeducation, arousal regulation and stress management,emotion expression and regulation, and conclusion)and a total of 14 weekly sessions. We based on two models: trauma-focfocused cognitive-behavioural therapy and AAT for victims of childhood trauma.Our expectation was that these children would present fewer symptoms following their participate in this programme.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Preventing gender-based violence and promoting therapeutic initiatives for children who are exposed to it are priority objectives of the United Nations’ Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health(16-30).However, in many countries,the children were invisible victims of this social problem, and consequently they received neither recognition nor the necessary psychosocial support.The need to identify and promote effective therapeutic initiatives for children who have been exposed to it is the origin of this project.In Spain, 800.000 children are exposed to this violence and most of then dont receive any treatment, so we innovate with the users, the model of intervention and the scientific study the effects of the programme

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

A key premise here is that the innate qualities of animals can facilitate and maximize the benefits of the therapeutic process. For example, research has shown that interacting with or being in the presence of animals can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve certain physiological markers of the stress response and wellbeing. Studies also suggest that the inclusion of animals can boost treatment adherence and motivation, which is a key aspect to consider in the context of therapy for individuals who have suffered traumatic experiences, among whom dropout rates tend to be high, a number of recent studies have reported promising results when using an Animal Assisted Intervention with the aim of improving health and preventing risk behaviours among children and adolescents who have suffered traumatic experiences. In general, the use of such interventions (AAI) has been associated with an improvement in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. Research also suggests that AAIs may help to improve psychosocial adaptation and resilience and promote more secure attachments. So, the pet human bond help this children to overcome de violence and trauma.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

From the beginning of the project we have an agreement with the University of the Basque Country to do a Pilot study. The aims of this study were to implement Leaving a Mark, an animal-assisted intervention (AAI) programme for children who have been exposed to gender-based violence, and to examine its effect on their associated clinical symptoms. The participants were 19 children (13 boys and 6 girls; Mage = 8.89, SD = 2.23) of Navarra who had been exposed to domestic violence perpetrated either by their father or their mother’s intimate partner. Clinical symptoms were assessed using the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). After taking part in the AAI programme, the children showed a reduction in internalizing symptoms and in symptoms associated with PTSD. These results provide preliminary support for the use of the programme. The communities engaged are from differents parts of Navarra.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

The strategie for scaling our impact, is relationated to geographic expansion, increasing the intervention zones first of all, to different parts of or community and other near communities, for example Basque Country. We want to form professionals to replicate the programme in other communities and increase the social impact.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

From Biak Bat we try to involve society in the development of the programs we carry out, society and its participation is essential.We encourage them to participate in different parts of the process and to perceive that they are part of the change, in different ways from dissemination, fundraising, volunteering etc.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

From the beginning the project have differents sources of funding, in 2019 and 2020 is the Government of Navarra who fund the programme for 6 children. On 2017 and 2018 the fund was from private foundations, state subsidies and own funds. Always the programme had been free for women and children who participate. So, the fund plan is continue with the public fund from de Government of Navarra.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The team is made up of different professionals and animals. On the one hand, a psychologist specializing in child intervention and animal assisted intervention is the project coordinator, other psychologist is responsible for the research and technical coordinator. We have a canine educator responsible for animal training and welfare and we have a canine team composed of 5 dogs and two cats specifically educated and experienced for the development of their function in welfare conditions.

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

If we get the award it is a recognition of our work and that of many people and entities in the field of animal interventions and a recognition of the value that animals can bring to social welfare. In this way society and public institutions will rely on entities such as ours and will support more support programs for unprotected children.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

Find this idea inspiring? Add your own!


Join the conversation: