Service dogs for people with epilepsy program

Training and free delivery of an assistance dog for people with epilepsy.

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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


Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • France

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

Since the creation of the association in 1989, HANDI'CHIENS has delivered over 2200 dogs all over the French territory. We have more than 500 volunteers that ensure the pre-education of the dog and 4 education centers throughout France labeled by the French state where our dog trainers train future service dogs. Today, more than 1,300 dogs are active.

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started

March 2018 (in progress)

Focus Areas

  • Promote inclusivity
  • 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?

  • €100k - €250k

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.

A few years ago, when we mainly gave dogs to people in wheelchairs, several of these beneficiaries with disabilities but also with epilepsy, told us that their assistance dog had a strange behavior a few minutes before the arrival of a crisis: "The dog remains stoic in front of my chair or, on the contrary, fidgets and barks which is not usual". These testimonies were repeated over the months. Based on this observation, we decided to explore this thematic further. First scientific results, with publications, on olfaction have been validated within collaboration between the University of Rennes, laboratory of ethology and our Association. These first results ask for new explorations that we wish to carry out over the next 3 years

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

The people to whom we give dogs have several crises per week and their daily routine is directly impacted: impossible to go out, work or have a normal life. People with epilepsy live in fear of the sudden onset of a crisis which can cause falls, loss of consciousness, seizures. They are also called "drug resistant" which prevents medical treatment. Today we want to study the pairing condition between the detector assistance dog and the person.

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

This dog has received specific training based on smell and smell discrimination : It can detect the crisis up to 7 minutes before it occurs and will warn the person with epilepsy via a snap called "poke". It’s a very visual and unusual gesture that is easy to interpret for its beneficiary, who can therefore get safe, take medication or contact a family member or doctor. This is called the "alert dog". During the crisis, the dog will lie down next to the person in order to calm him down, allow him to feel a pressure point and bring him comfort. He can put his head on the thigh or on the person's chest. The dog can also press a button or buzzer that will alert the family of the current crisis. We then speak of "response dog". After the crisis, the dog can get the phone, the medication, etc. It can also help the person to get up, to cross the street, etc. The dog comforts and secures the person by his positioning and his presence. The masters gain confidence, are less afraid of a fall and simply resume their taste for ordinary life.

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

Our method of training dogs took several years. We first talked to professionals in epilepsy and canine behavior. We then implemented a very specific protocol aimed at training specific dogs for the detection of epileptic seizures. The basis of our method is olfaction and odor discrimination. A person wishing a service dog must take from him with cotton the sweat generated by his body following an epileptic crisis. These samples are sent to the center where the dog is trained. The dog is then trained to recognize this specific odor and to alert as soon as he feels it by giving a blow of muzzle in the thigh (from 4 hours to 7 min before) and to respond to it by lying on his master, by bringing the phone or medication.

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)?

At HANDi'CHIENS, we are convinced that dogs can make a huge contribution to people with disabilities, especially people with epilepsy. First of all, these people called severe epilepsy live in fear of going out since the crisis can happen at any time without warning. The presence of the dog therefore allows them to be accompanied each day by the dog who can anticipate these crises and report them. People therefore have less stress and can go out without fear. They can also resume a normal social life: the presence of the dog also makes it possible to create interactions with citizens. People are less stressed, less anxious, which is a factor in triggering a crisis. At present, there is no medical alternative to detect crises and alert.

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 2018 we delivered 3 assistance dogs and in 2019 7 dogs. Our program is still being evaluated and improved but at the moment the first feedback and testimonials are more than positive: . Dogs detect a majority of crises . People who have received a dog have less of a crisis since the presence of the dog reassures them and reduces stress and anxiety. We ensure a very regular home follow-up once the dog is delivered to continue to form this human / animal pair. Our canine epilepsy trainers trained in each of the centers in charge of the specific education of these dogs provide this fo Dogs are specifically trained for one person since each person with epilepsy is different.

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

We want to give visibility to our epilepsy program and we want to convince partners to join us in this program. We also need to push scientific research and develop an understanding of what is going on in dogs and increase research work to train dogs better. At present, our training capacities do not meet the growing demand. In addition, we still need to improve our method of training dogs. The monitoring of dogs gived to the person with epilepsy also has a significant cost.

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

Our epilepsy program is an innovative, scientifically validated program that has a concrete impact on improving the lives of people with epilepsy. It is a scientific breakthrough that links man and animal. This non-drug method that uses animal therapy as a driver. No medical device currently allows us to anticipate and report epileptic crisis. We also wish, with the support of research, to have a validation of the therapeutic added value by the French health system and to have a financial aid then.

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 mainly wish today to find the funding to consolidate scientific. It also requires the delivery of trained dogs again. The results will then make it possible to obtain public aid to allow each of the eligible epilepsy persons to benefit from a detector dog. Today, we have handed over 7 assistance dogs for people with epilepsy. We also train canine trainers referent in the field of epilepsy and will have to train more in the future.

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 training of a dog "HANDI'CHIENS" lasts 2 years. The puppy, labrador or golden retriever - the breeds favored to date - will stay 16 months in his host family who will take care of his socialization then, 6 months in one of the 4 HANDI'CHIENS Education Centers labeled by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. our team count : 50 employees 4 epilepsy advisers (1 per center) 500 volunteer 80 delegates who supervise the families puppies rising dogs.

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

Purina is a company with which we share common values. The well-being of man's best friend, the dog. If we are laureat, we hope to be able to continue our program and further develop it to meet the growing demands and thus always deliver more dogs to people with epilepsy. The visibility given by the awarding of the prize may also be beneficial for our association: we need volunteers to supervise the dogs

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.

Testimony of Carole who received LASSO, a young black labrador of two years in March 2018: "LASSO can warn me several minutes before the onset of a seizure with a" poke ", by putting a snap on my thigh. This allows me to be safe. This avoids breaking my ribs, teeth like it happened to me in the past. Just touching LASSO appeals to me a lot. " Also Florence, 32, who has had epilepsy since the age of 18 and who received LOLLY at the same time: "The trigger took place while I was preparing pasta for my son: I had a crisis I passed out and a fire started. I had to go back to live with my mother and I the same time received LOLLY. It was an eye-opener. LOLLY watches me 24 hours a day, it's a real safety, I can't do without it. My son has his Spiderman and I have my LOLLY, is my guardian angel. " It is important to specify that each dog is trained to measure for its beneficiary according to the odors released before the crisis. They also take part in the improvement of our method.

14. Mutual Benefit: Explain how your project mutually benefits the pets involved – how is the pet not only used as tool?

To train our service dogs, we use a so-called positive method: we reward the dog when it executes an order correctly via a kibble or a caress, and ignore what it does wrong. As a result, the dog understands that if he wants attention, he must make one command and not another. We never talk about dressage. For the dog, this must be (and is) a game. Furthermore, the dog is never alone. he accompanies the person all day. it is a companion before being an aid in crisis detection. For the duo to work, the dog must always be close to his master. The bond that unites the dog and its beneficiary goes beyond simple technical assistance: the dog likes to be of service. A very strong emotional bond is created between the two, each becoming dependent on the other. The service dog also has a social role. he is there to reassure the person in public, to help him out, to resume a social activity. It is therefore much more than a simple tool.

15. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?

We are the only association in France to be recognized for training assistance dogs in general but also for dogs detecting epileptic seizures. Our method is called "non-medicinal" and in this sense very innovative. There are other foreign associations that train dogs for people with epilepsy. As specified above, to set up our program, we relied on scientific results and set up a collaboration between the University of Rennes, laboratory of ethology and our Association

16. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project.

For the moment we are at the beginning of the process. Ultimately, we would like to continue developing relationships with associations that support people with epilepsy (France Epilepsy) in order to create bridges between our two structures. This would make our dogs better known to these people and our association and thus better manage sick people. Our dogs are not intended to accompany all suffering people but can be a solution for people with many crises and without medication solutions. By exchanging with these associations, we could also improve our knowledge of the disease and thus perfect our training program (symptoms triggering the crisis, duration, response to the crisis, etc.). Our aim has always been to accommodate people with disabilities and frailty. By promoting these synergies, we will enable better care for people suffering from epilepsy.

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

No distinction or price for the moment.

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.

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).

You will fin our business plan 2017-2019 attached.

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 50%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Does this entry have potential to GROW & demonstrate LEADERSHIP?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. Is this entry VIABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

7. FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions or used an old model in a new way - 50%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 100%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 50%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 50%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 50%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 50%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 0%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 100%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: Your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 100%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon - 0%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%


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