Pet Therapy

AVA is an animal shelter based in Normandy (France) who takes care of 500 hundreds animals victim of multiple traumatisms, and the Institut

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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

Dr Thierry Bedossa

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • France

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

This project has never been conducted before. Zootherapy usually means that an animal goes to the place people stay (hospital, clinic, retirement home…). In our project, patients go the shelter where animals live (the shelter is in Normandy, France), in their own environment. We aim to replicate this project nationally and abroad to show that animals and humans who lived similar traumatic experiences can take care of each other.

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started


Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • Enhance physical activity and wellness
  • Re-imagining the role of pets in society

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?

  • €10k - €50k

Organisation Type

  • hybrid: a combination of different types of organisations, such as a social enterprise (an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being)

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.

Patients suffering from PTSD are most often afraid of other humans (who most of the time have induced the traumatic event) and develop avoidance and trauma-related arousal and reactivity. After the traumatic event, they gradually reduce their interactions with the human society (public transportation, public areas, work…). Sometimes, the only relationship they can keep is the one with their pet (dog, cat). We thought that exploring and enhancing this relationship with pets could be a way to gradually lead them to restore the ability to feel things et share with other living beings.

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

Enhancing relationship with pets to restore affective bonds with other living beings and gradually come back to the human society. Cure isolation and social and affective avoidance in human patients,, and improve social competences in dogs as well as their confidence.

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

Evaluation of humans’ psychological benefits: · Patients: - Mentioning a proofed PTSD diagnosis per patient due to DSM or ICD-10 criteria including information about early childhood maltreatment (abuse/neglect/traumatic experience) - Assessment of emotional states via scales and questionnaires before and after the study. · Animal keepers: specific questionnaire exploring their emotional states and benefits perceived for us and the animals, that they completed every session, but we may also use the same questionnaires used for the patients… The idea to evaluate animal keepers benefits came during the initial study. For both, measures of cortisol and oxytocin before and after each session Evaluation of dog’ physical and emotional benefits (or, at least : exclusion of negative potential impact) : · Measures of cortisol and oxytocin before (baseline) and after each session. . Accelerometric data in order to measure/compare dogs’ activities before, during and after each session . Behavioral coding of dogs behavior from videos of each session, and/or taking in real time by experienced students.

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

The goal is to restore confidence in other living beings (by developing affective bonds) and self confidence (by being helpful for other beings). The singularity of this project is that it is built to help both humans and animals, not just to use animals to help humans. This project has been imagined and will be conducted by both scientists, clinicians, animal keepers, trainers. For the first time, we will use a new technology (accelerometry collar) and physiological measures in order to objectively highlight the benefits of this kind of therapy.

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)?

PTSD patients can’t stand anymore the agitation, noise, permanent movement, latent aggressiveness, etc... of the modern human society. They’re afraid of anything unexpected as if it could hurt them and repeat the trauma, and most of the time they’re afraid that other humans could hurt them again. AVA Refuge is a very peaceful place, in the heart of the Normandy country, completely out of the urban agitation, dedicated to animals, with very few humans. When I first went there, I immediately thought this was the perfect place for PTSD patients to finally lower their hyperarousal and allow themself to have affective interactions again. The fact that the animals at AVA are traumatized beings too, makes the patients feel even more confident and willing to interact and help.

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?

1 psychiatrist 2 psychotherapists 1 psychologist for research 4 animal caretakers 2 ethology researchers 6 patients 1 collar designer There are many animal assisted projects all around the world, but none combine 3 issues: animal welfare, human welfare, and new technologies serving Science. Thanks to our sensors (physiological and behavioural), our datas will be measured for the very first time in an objective and innovative way, with a huge panel of data never before collected on animals but also on humans.

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

We will publish a scientific article about the impact of this kind of project upon dogs and humans, to show that this program is makeable and can be reproduced easily. We will spread our conclusions through different media: TV, press, social networks…

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

Our project join 3 entities: AVA’s shelter, the Institute of Victimology and a start-up called Herding Cats. For AVA, the value is to improve the welfare of its animals. For the Institute of Victimology, the value is to improve the welfare of human patients. For Herding Cats, the value is to commercialize a new technology that help owners and veterinarians to understand much more animal’s health, needs and behaviours. Moreover, it proposes an alternative solution to cats’ biologgers. The common value of all is to encourage the development of initiatives in Pet Therapy that respect animals’ needs. This will show the entire society that different species which have lived the same traumatisms can fix each other.

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?

Our only plan to fund this project is the help of Purina. Without this prize, we will not be able to achieve this goal. If we win, we will split the amount this way : we will need to pay animal keepers, researchers, psychologists that will go the shelter with patients, the transport of the patients to the shelter from Paris, the development of the accelerometric collar, the physiological analysis and the scientific publication costs.

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?

1 psychiatrist (full time) 2 psychotherapists (full time) 1 psychologist for research (part time) 4 animal caretakers (full time) 2 ethology researchers (full time) 1 collar designer (full time) 1 CTO (part time)

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

The aim of our project is to collect data which could be available for researchers and clinicians, but also to propose a new and viable therapy for victims of traumatisms. To reach this goal, we will share our findings through media, social networks and international scientific literature.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email


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