Paws for Change
Improving the lives of disadvantaged young people and rescue dogs through a unique pet human journey
Paws For Change - helping young people and rescue dogs together
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:
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
Initiative's representative date of birth
Initiative's representative gender
Headquarters location: country
Headquarters location: city
Where are you making a difference?
Felledge, County Durham, UK
Birmingham, West Midlands, UK
Taunton, Somerset, UK
Southridge, Hertfordshire, UK
Millbrook, Surrey, UK
Leybourne, Kent, UK
Website or social media url(s)
January / 2019
Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
Enhance physical activity and wellness
Re-imagining the role of pets in society
Rehoming hard to adopt dogs with special needs
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?
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.
Paws for Change was created by the team at the RSPCA Millbrook Animal Centre. They had seen how difficult it is to rehome dogs with additional behaviour and training needs, especially those that need time and patience to be around humans after a traumatic life. Alongside this, the local youth support services were looking for ways to help disadvantaged young people and young offenders to build confidence, empathy and responsibility skills. The 'Aha' moment happened when both needs were brought together and the positive difference could be seen, almost instantly, for both the dogs and the young people involved.
2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Each year the RSPCA rescues over 6,500 dogs. Many have been mistreated or brought up in a bad environment. This makes them much harder to rehome, leading to long stays in kennels which are not good for the dogs and increase costs. Many disadvantaged young people and youth offenders have never been given responsibility. This can lead to a lack of confidence and empathy, limiting social mobility and their opportunity to flourish and succeed.
3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
In conjunction with local youth support services Paws for Change pairs young people, aged 14-19+, with special needs rescue dogs. The courses are delivered at an animal rescue centre and led by an RSPCA Animal Behaviour and Welfare Adviser, supported by a Prevention and Education Adviser. Each course is five days. The program has 5 goals:
1. Improve the behaviour of the dogs, and thereby their chances of successful rehoming
2. Reduce stress of rescue dogs; the additional enrichment provides respite from the intense noise, smells, boredom and loneliness of kennels
3. Improve the understanding of the 5 welfare needs of animals amongst young people
4. Improve the young person’s ability to understand dog body language and kind/positive reward based training
5. Raise the young person's self esteem, communication and empathy skills; providing a sense of achievement, often for the first time.
Young people gain an AQA Award, "Studying Dog Welfare Needs & Behaviour". This is a unique recognition that provides a real sense of achievement for people who may not have any formal qualifications which can open doors to employability and social mobility.
4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?
This is a unique program in the UK, bringing together the skills and environment of the RSPCA's work with the needs of local youth care and support agencies. We recognise that through the proven educational practice of praise and recognition young people can be allowed to develop life skills and flourish through their success.
Core to the RSPCA work is rescuing and rehoming dogs. We have developed robust guidelines and practice for supporting the physical and psychological needs of dogs in our care. This is built upon the unique benefits from the pet human bond and Paws for Change helps to support dogs with training needs, and young people, on this important journey. Bringing together at-need youth with rescue dogs is our unique approach.
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)?
The two goals of Paws for Change are to rehome special needs dogs and support the development of disadvantaged young people.
Often the mistreatment of animals can be linked to disadvantaged communities. Dogs may be used as status symbols, involved in dog fighting, badger baiting and other antisocial behaviour. It has been identified that some puppy farming is linked to criminal activity and often this can lead to animal mistreatment or even death.
By intervening at an early stage, helping young people to appreciate the welfare needs of dogs, we are aiming to help young people choose a different path and improve the lives of dogs in their care. This has a positive effect on society in many ways. Through direct change during the program but also motivating the influence of the young person to stand up for dogs and animal welfare in their communities.
Rescuing and rehoming dogs help society in many ways such as improving animal welfare to support communities, removing distressing situations from society, improving the lives of animals and encouraging rehoming over puppy purchasing; producing a multilevel halo effect on sustainability and wider community factors.
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?
In our pilot year 7 RSPCA centres held 13 courses in 2019. 52 young people attended and helped 52 dogs with special needs. We’ve seen great results against the goals:
Dog behaviour average score has risen from 6.4 before the course to 15.6 after (out of a possible 21). This is a key indicator of their rehomability. 80% of young people attending were able to identify the 5 welfare needs of an animal, prior to the course most were not aware of what these were. 100% were able to identify 4 of them. We often see young people develop a new love for animals and many will stay on to volunteer or start apprenticeships with the RSPCA, improving their life chances and employability skills further.
7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?
In 2020 our existing centres will run 3 Paws for Change courses with 4 dogs and 4 young people attending each. This will benefit 84 children and 84 dogs. In addition we plan to setup 8 additional RSPCA animal centres, supporting 4 dogs and 4 young people at each. Overall we aim to support 116 dogs and 116 young people in 2020. Community Feedback also asked if we could expand beyond our centres and we believe we can offer training to 4 other organisations to setup their own Paws for Change programs with the help of this award. This will allow further expansion across the UK and Europe.
8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Social Value - Paws for Change will help 116 young people and 116 dogs in their journey to a better life. This will reduce the impact of antisocial behaviour and the demands on local communities. This will further enhance the 116 homes that the dogs are rehomed to and reduce the impact that breeding 116 puppies could have had if the adopters had chosen to buy a puppy instead or rehoming.
Economic Value - Working as an inter-agency approach reduces costs as we are able to provide venues and activities that youth engagement teams would have previously had to pay for. The outcomes of the project also have long term economic impacts through helping young people into employment and reducing the costs of long term offenders.
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?
Going forward Paws for Change will be embedded into the RSPCA educational prevention strategy. Our education work is supported through a robust fundraising sustainability plan including individual giving, philanthropy, trust and donations, earnt income and corporate partnerships. The RSPCA Fundraising Strategy is mapped over 5 years and reviewed through the budgeting process on an annual basis. Each area of our work reports monthly against their annual plans. We have attached a business plan to our application which shows a cost breakdown and how we will make this sustainable.
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 Paws for Change team includes:
Behaviour and Welfare Advisers (BWA) work with and advise on the needs of each dog.
Prevention and Education Advisers (PEA) work with the young people, staff and volunteers at each centre.
Centre Staff and Volunteers manage local operations . Fundraising, Reporting and Governance are managed via the RSPCA head office. To grow ourselves we need to scale BWA and PEA roles. We can additionally grow by training other organisations to deliver the program too.
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 were to be successful we would be able to scale up the number of RSPCA Centres running Paws for Change and the number of courses at each centre. This would allow us to help more dogs and young people and to engage with wider communities for this work. In addition the RSPCA is a collaborative organisation, working with many other charities in the UK and Europe on campaigns and sharing best practice. We will be able to train other organisations to share our experience so that they can develop Paws for Change programs of their own. During 2020 we can allocate 4 workshop places to external organisations which will help many more dogs and young people and become changemakers of their own.
12. How did you hear about this challenge?
13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.
Mary (name changed) had a terrible year after the death of her father and then the death of her grandmother a few weeks later. During the course she bonded with Bess, a labrador cross, and gained confidence and more self-awareness. Just getting to the centre to start the course each day was a struggle for Mary but she was determined not to let Bess down. She had to complete the final day separately because of the need to move to a hostel. She completed the programme and went on to enrol on an animal care course at a local college.
“The course I attended has changed my life and has helped me to get out of the house. It has also helped me to build my confidence around people; this had previously been really hard because I had hardly left the house or been to school in over a year. The prospect of working with animals in the future has been the only thing that has kept me going and has made me think that life is worth living" - quote from young person on the course
14. Mutual Benefit: Explain how your project mutually benefits the pets involved – how is the pet not only used as tool?
A fundamental part of Paws for Change is teaching the 5 animal welfare needs; 5 things that every animal needs to be happy and healthy. Paws for Change allows our rescue dogs the chance, often for the first time, to experience positive engagement with a human being. The programme provides an important social opportunity for these dogs, who also learn behaviours that help them to succeed in their new homes. They receive bespoke training prescribed by a staff behaviour expert and carried out by the young people. The goal of the program is to re-home special needs dogs with their positive placement being our key objective alongside that of the benefits for the young person. Paws for Change is the tool to deliver this objective for the dogs in our care, rather than us using the dogs to deliver a program.
15. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?
There are many animal-assisted therapy/interactions programmes that benefit young people, but we are not aware of programmes that are mutually beneficial for the animal, or support animal rescue work, or teach about animal welfare as a primary aim. In every part of our programme design and delivery, the animals’ needs and wellbeing are top priority. We want young people to engage with and take home the message that animals are sentient beings, and what they can do to provide for their welfare. We also have behaviour professionals reviewing the dogs’ individual experiences and benefits as we move through the course. Few alternative programmes have professional behaviour support delivering them, and the ‘service-user’ (e.g. patient, student) is not always asked to learn about the behaviour of, and/or advocate for the welfare of, the animal. Other programmes commonly use purpose-bred and extensively trained animals, whereas we exclusively work with animals that need help too.
16. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project.
With further funding we could create a blueprint / model that other charities can use to develop their own Paws for Change program. We can incorporate train-the-trainer through the delivery of workshops, mentorships, distance learning, and support materials. We could provide training places for behaviourists and trainers from other organisations across the UK and Europe whilst we train our own teams to succeed with their new courses. This could significantly scale up the number of dogs and young people helped.
Going further we could look to support new changemakers on a wider scale across Europe. Using seminars at international events such as WOOF the European Animal Training & Behaviour Conference (https://www.woofconference.com/) , ClickerExpo Europe (https://clickerexpo.clickertraining.com/clicker-expo-europe/) , International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants (https://iaabcconference.org/), and others.
17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?
Young people who complete the course can receive AQA award unit certificates, we are registered with the AQA to provide a ‘dog behaviour and welfare’ unit award. We have received media recognition, https://tinyurl.com/udtqaw2 , https://tinyurl.com/rf7ynzj , https://tinyurl.com/s8lozrg . As we have only just begun expanding the course on a large scale we have not received industry awards - if successful, Better with Pets would be our first.
18. Your Self-Elevator Pitch (OPTIONAL): Share a 1-minute video that shares a quick summary of the problem you would like to solve, how you’ve chosen to solve it, and the impact you hope to see.
David Allen, RSPCA Head of Education, explaining Paws for Change
19. Financial Sustainability (OPTIONAL): Please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project, include an attached document with your detailed business plan or other equivalent information. (This information will NOT be shared with your fellow contestant, it will only be visible to you and internal Prize reviewers).
There is no option on the form to attach our business plan so this is the link to the document. However, it may not work outside of our organisation so please email me if you need me to send a copy as an attachment.