Affordable Pet-therapy

Pet-therapy classes for disabled children and senior citizens living in sparsely populated settlements of the Republic of Karelia.

Photo of Ирина Бурмистрова
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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

Irina Burmistrova

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Russia

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

Russia, Karelia

Website or social media url(s)

Instagram: Social network "vkontakte" :

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

  • 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.

The fund "Kentavr" was created in 1996 to provide adaptive riding services to children with disabilities and other people with different health issues. Every week we conducted full-time classes with children with disabilities, including those who come to us from other settlements. Their companions or representatives often asked us about the possibility of providing the pet-therapy at their place for people, who couldn't get to Petrozavodsk on their own. It was always hard to decline such invitations. That feeling forwarded us to improve our facilities. We would like to expand the scope of our assistance opportunities for people who have interest and need, but who are constrained by different limitations, such as lack of health or wealth.

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

Nowadays the hugest problem for us is the transportation issue. It is impossible for us to deliver animals to other settlements in Karelia. Throughout the existence of NGOs, we have been helping only the citizens of Petrozavodsk, the main town in our region. However there are a lot of children and senior citizens, for whom our therapy can be helpfull, as it provides a cure for both mental and physical difficulties.

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

Our goal is to carry out activities in small towns. We are aiming to provide services to people and popularize pet therapy in the small local communities of Karelia. We will train new specialists and will attract people willing to help for free. The increase in staff makes it possible to help more people in a shorter time. We will also need to purchase and equip vehicles for solving transportation issue. In the pet therapy we are focusing on the horses, so we will need to get a horse carrier and additional corrals for housing. For small pets, we will acquire spesial cages.

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

We studied the problems of rehabilitation of invalids in Karelia and came to the conclusion that pet therapy is almost not used in the republic, especially in far and sparsely populated settlements. There is no opportunity to ground local pet therapy services in each community, as there are rarely more than 50 customers per settelment. And it is not enough. Mobility will allow us to provide pet therapy even outside Petrozavodsk. So we decided to purchase a horse-carrier and increase staff to have a chance to visit almost all settlements in Karelia.

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 main aspect of pet-therapy of our organization is hippotherapy. In order to help people to develop important social competencies, such as emotional intelligence, cooperation, empathy, stability, inclusiveness, and overcome serious social problems, we actively use horseback riding, which has 3 features that distinguish it from other types of rehabilitation: 1. Riding requires physical effort associated with the work of all muscles or muscle groups. The effectiveness of this kind of activity is in consisting of both body training and solving special problems, such as improving the work of the cardiovascular system, mobility of the lower extremities and the spine. 2. Riding is carried out in a sitting position. It develops coordination of movements and promotes the development of reactions which are necessary for maintaining balance. 3. There is a close relationship between the horse and the rider, thats why it is possible to develope social relations and self-control during the interaction with another living being. Moreover, such character traits as courage, love for animals, and trust are taking place.

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?

During the existence of our NGO, hippotherapy and pet therapy services were provided to 783 people with disabilities of varying degrees. We also provided horse riding training services for other categories of citizens, in a total of 3428 people. Now we are planing to keep records in paper and video formats of the quantity and quality of the provision of pet therapy services outside the city of Petrozavodsk. We will take some research within settlements which will be provided with the pet therapy services. In each visited local community we will make a survey conducted with questions related to the quality and relevance of the pet therapy service. Also, every lesson and emotions of people will be recorded in photo and video format.

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

Our short-term prospect is the purchase of a horse carrier and training of 2 more hippotherapists and 6 horse breeders. In the long term, the expansion of the district will lead to the growth of our provided services. Moreover, we are planing to attract investors and to participate in government projects, which will allow us to cover the costs of transporting and housing.

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

Scientists have revealed a beneficial effect on humans in dealing with animals. The therapeutic factor of hippotherapy is the complex activation and mobilization of the body - physical and psychological. Keeping a horse expensive, so there are no horses for hippotherapy in sparsely populated areas. We will be able to organize events on the regular in local communities basis and small towns with the lack of specialists or shortage of necessary equipment to provide this type of services.

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 short-term prospect is the purchase of a horse carrier and training of 2 more hippotherapists and 6 horse breeders. Purchase of additional items for transporting and housing: cages and corrals. In a long term, we are assumed to have fixed costs for using the carrier and some variable costs, which will be related to future arrangements. The expansion of the district will lead to the growth of our provided services. Moreover, we are planing to attract investors and to participate in government projects, which will allow us to cover the costs of transporting and housing.

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?

At the moment, we have 1 hippotherapist, 2 horse breeders, 1 dog handler, 58 volunteers and 3 curators. During the project, we plan to further increase the staff by 2 hippotrapepts and 6 horse breeders, as well as attract about 50 more volunteers and train 20 curators.

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

We can spread ideas to help people with disabilities living in remote locations. The implementation of the project will facilitate communication between people and animals, which will improve the emotional and physical condition of our customers. The participation of volunteers in the project will expand the boundaries of volunteerism, teach mercy and mutual assistance. In addition, the project will contribute to the respect for animals and nature.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Purina page or contact

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 66.7%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

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

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 66.7%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. Is this entry VIABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

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 - 100%

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 - 0%

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 - 0%

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? - 0%

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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