The Pet Therapy Network by Frida's Friends Onlus

We believe in an Ethical and Respectful World, where animals represent an important resource for human well-being.

Photo of Mario Colombo
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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

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

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020

Initiative's representative name

Mario Colombo, president of Frida's Friends Onlus

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Italy

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

Italy, Lombardia, Milan

Website or social media url(s) FB @FridasFriendsOnlus Instagram fridas_friends

Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • 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?

  • €250k - €500k

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.

Born in March 2012, Frida’s Friends begins thanks to an idea of Mario Colombo, who became its founder and president: he wants to bring managing direction in the third sector. Frida’s Friends team is composed of professionals specialized in all the problems related to the psychophysical sphere: autism, relational difficulties, cognitive deficit, and behavior difficulties. Important support is also given to the psychiatry departments and to all the organizations that daily develop modality ad hoc to face children's difficulties. All Frida’s Friends professionals are recognised by the “zooprofilattico sperimentale delle Venezie" Institute.

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

The main problem we found every day is the ignorance of the common people about the power of Pet Therapy, in other words, from one side there are patients and doctors who know very well the positive influence that the Pet Therapy has to help the patients to come out from own sickness (physical or psychologic), but on the other side, people consider Pet Therapy a sort of pastime, without any scientific evidence. But it is not so.

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

Often it is enough a short movie of 15 seconds to understand what happens when a child meets a pet... We have a media plan (tv, social media, newspaper articles,..) that we are able to increase year by year; we are going to realize our app; we have approached the problem of bullies in the schools by specific didactic to support the students; we also have planed a tour in a major shopping malls to meet common people to present our activities.

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

Probably in Italy, we are the first to consider Pet Therapy an activity that can be afforded with a managerial approach and this is what we do daily.

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)?

Pet Therapy is the empathy between the dog and its handler. This positive empathy together with the medical staff translates into a real curative therapy. In the hospitals, we plan a session for the patients under the control of the medical staff; in the schools, we plan a lessons with or without pets; in different situations, we create comfort locations where people and pets can interact in order to the goals we want to achieve.

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?

The difference from other competitors and we is our mentality and the capability to communicate ethically. The first indicator of our success is the continuous demands from hospitals or other organizations to be present with our professionals and pets and for these growing demands, we need to be supported by institutions and private individuals.

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

We aspire to become a point of reference in the Italian context for the associations operating in the pet therapy field with the aim of answering the questions we receive from the Italian regions. For this reason, we have identified a protocol for the organizations that wish to work with us, guaranteeing the same result in terms of quality and satisfaction that we are able to offer.

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

Our mentality will allow us to demonstrate the power of Pet Therapy helping humans to live better, offering a service to the hospitals as well to schools, with a very deep impact in terms of sociality and well-being. And for our stakeholders, it means to be part of our vision, ethically involved in a great project.

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?

We have presented specific projects to the public administration of Lombardy, with great success. In the middle term, as we have obtained the support of the Institutions, we are involved in the organization of the "Month of Pet Therapy", the first edition ever. It will permit us to present to the public the results obtained, with the confidence to obtain new contracts and financial support to go on.

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?

Our team is composed of: Mario Colombo: president Deborah Megna: vice- president Alberto Borroni: counselor Aldo la Spina: technical director for dogs Tiziana Gori: pet therapy project manager Alessandro Fuochi: legal business Simona Colombo: administration Monica Landro: press office Manuela Porta: journalist/writer

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

Thanking Purina and its Prize, we'll be able to achieve new goals, which means to transform new projects in reality for more people.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Purina page or contact
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges


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