Outside the Cages

We want to improve 120 dogs' lives in a public shelter and find them a family, while providing a job opportunity for 87 incarcerated people

Photo of Federica Faiella
6 8

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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

Alessandro Fazzi for CAVE CANEM Foundation

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Italy

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

Spoleto (Perugia) - Umbria

Website or social media url(s)

https://fondazionecavecanem.org/ https://www.facebook.com/fondazionecavecanem/ https://www.instagram.com/fondazionecavecanem/ https://www.linkedin.com/company/64614629/admin/ @FondazioCC

Date Started

August 2019

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 CAVE CANEM Foundation is a dream come true for its Founder and President, Adriana Possenti. She has a long family tradition in helping dogs and cats in difficulty. Her mother was, for over 20 years, the President of an Animal Protection Association in Venice. Adriana has always been involved in the protection of the environment and animals, mainly as a major donor for NGOs. She wanted to become more involved, but needed someone who could work with her and complement her. Her Vice President and friend, Federica Faiella, was the perfect fit. They met while Federica worked for a NGO that benefited from Adriana's donations. When Federica left the NGO she worked for, Adriana knew it was time for her proposal. Federica immediately accepted.

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

The "Outside the cages" project aims to solve two problems: 1) improving the living conditions of dogs in the public shelter of Spoleto (PG), allowing their full recovery and facilitating their adoption, while trying to develop a new model for the public shelters. 2) providing training and work opportunities, in animal welfare-related jobs, to incarcerated people in the Spoleto prison.

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

The solutions of the two problems are strictly interconnected: the Foundation, working with the Spoleto prison and the City of Spoleto, was able to allow incarcerated people to use their carpentry skills to improve the kennels and facilities of the public shelters; it provided them with training in behavioral recovery with the help highly skilled canine educators, who also helped the more frightened dogs in the shelter; it provided theoretical and practical lessons to the incarcerated people in order to help them developed skills that could provide working opportunities in animal welfare-related jobs, both while in prison and once freed; the commitment by the incarcerated people and the canine educators already produced positive beahvioral changes in the dogs, that will help in allowing them to leave the shelter and living in families.

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

The main innovation of the "Outside the cages" project is the synergy between the help humans provide to dogs and the help dogs provide to humans. Incarcerated often participate in work projects, but this specific one provides them with additional benefits besides acquiring specific skills or earning some money: the empathy and the affection shelter dogs provide and the distinct feeling that there are beings that deeply need and trust them.

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 project "Outside the cages" was designed specifically to harness the positive aspects of the pet-human bond: incarcerated people are able to develop or increase a strong empathy and use their emotional intelligence in order to help dogs, especially frightened and problematic ones. Dogs help incarcerated people providing them with affection without strings attached and a trust that is often difficult for people in their situation. The incredible relationships that incarcerated people developed and will develop with the dogs helped and will help them to control anxieties and reduce or erase violent behaviors.

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?

Untile today, the Foundation organized 18 learning days with 18 different professional figures that thought the incarcerated people about dogs anatomy, behavior, canine education skills, zoonosis and prisoners rights and re-education. Incarcerated people already spent 15 days working to improve the shelter facilities and built 4 dedicated kennels. 8 dogs were included in socialization. incarcerated people part of the project reported that they reduced or stopped to take sleeping pills in order to rest at nights; there were 15 additional requests to be part of the project. Participants reported that they now fully understood that dogs are sentient beings. Dogs that showed deep fear in the shelter showed huge progress after the days they spent with the incarcerated people and the canine educators sent by the Foundation, and are now able to get out their kennels and walk with volunteers

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

The project presents four main phases: selection of the participants; theoretical and practical lessons before working with the shelter dogs; building of the 4 dedicated kennels inside the prison and improvement in the public shelter; working with the shelter dogs. Right now, the project is entering its fourth phase, and the Foundation would like to expand it providing work grants for incarcerated people, with further improvements in the shelter buildings and exporting the model to other facilities besides Spoleto. The Foundation is currently negotiating with two other prisons and cities.

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

The project "Outside the cages" creates values for all its stakeholders: the city of Spoleto, that is helped in the management of its public shelter for dogs; the prison of Spoleto, that host an innovative project that helps both the incarcerated people and the prison staff, furthering the re-education path; the professional figures that the Foundation has involved, who experience a challenge in an environment different to what they are used to.

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?

Part of the funds necessary to the project were directly provided by the Founder, Adriana Possenti, but its innovative natura was able to attract many professionals that agreed to lend their expertise for free or just accepting the reimbursement for their expense. Furthermore, the prison and the city of Spoleto were thrilled to be chosen as the main locations, therefore they contributed with their help in taking "Outside the cages" this far.

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 project staff: 1 project manager and 1 coordinator of dog trainers and board members; 1 legal counsel; 1filmmaker director counsel; 1volunteer penitentiary law professor;1volunteer assistant of the scientific director; 7part time dog trainers; 1volunteer assistant; 2 volunteer shelter managers; 1part time psychologist; 1 volunteer veterinary; 2 manager of the City of Spoleto; 5employees of the prison of Spoleto. The evolution of the team will be guaranteed thanks to to professional volunteer

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

With the Purina BetterwithPets Prize the Foundation could further improve the conditions of the public shelter and further develop the four dedicated kennels built by incarcerated people inside the prison, besides financing work grants for those prisoners with long sentences that are able to exit the prison for work permits. The Foundation could also start to swiftly implement the model in other realities, that, as said before, are currently in talks to replicate the project.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

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

Example 1 - Incarcerated people are able to attend theoretical and practical course about dogs and work with them at the public shelter and in the prison, learning new skills as shelter workers, dog-sitters and dog trainers, besides continuing to use their work skills as carpenters in improving the public shelters facilities and building the kennels inside the prison. The CAVE CANEM Foundation will fund work bursaries for some of the participants to the project, to let them work in the public shelter as shelter workers and dog trainers. Example 2 - Dogs at the public shelter of Spoleto have much more comfortable lives in the renovated facilities and they will experience more time walking and playing, thanks to the presence of the incarcerated people who, as soon as properly trained, will also be able to help those dogs affected by behavioral issues. Some of these dogs will be transferred to the prison kennels, with a larger number of people that will care for them and work with them.

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

The dogs are recognized as sentient beings by the incarcerated people (and the prison staff) participating in the project (they will also be able to spread the word to fellow incarcerated people). Indeed, the incarcerated people actively work to improve their living conditions at the public shelter, and they will build their state of the art kennels inside the prison. The time with these pets will provide major benefits to incarcerated people, not only for the working opportunities during and, hopefully, after their stay in prison, but also for the psychological relevance that taking care of animals provide. Nevertheless, the dogs are not there "only for" the incarcerated people, in order to help them coping: it is a mutual relationship, akin to a friendship - just consider that incarcerated people will part with a dog as soon as a family adopt him or her. This is the real meaning of the title of the project, "Outside the Cages": prisoners that help other prisoners.

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

There are many NGOs working in the public shelters, providing what is needed to dogs living there, with more or less success . There are also many NGOs working with incarcerated people, trying to help the Italian State to respect what its Constitution demands, i.e. working towards the "rehabilitation of the convicted person". Still, nobody in Italy is trying to merge these two approaches, at least not to the extent proposed by the Cave Canem Foundation. There are other, similar experience in the world, like the US "Marley’s Mutts Pawsitive Change" program . But nothing similar has ever been done in Italy and maybe Europe. The novelty of this approach is not only the mutual benefits already addressed, but the strive of the CAVE CANEM Foundation to make it a replicable model: potentially, every prison and public shelter in Italy could create their program, with the help of the Foundation or even other NGOs, as long as all the stakeholder are willing to do so, understanding its potential.

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

The main partners MUST the public ones: the CAVE CANEM Foundation hopes to replicate the project in other realities and is currently talking with other cities and prisons, to understand the feasibility in their context. Particularly advanced are the talks with the Naples prison of Secondigliano: besides the prison, we are currently talking to the City of Naples. The scalability of the project is optimal: after the completion of the project, while the CAVE CANEM Foundation will export "Outside the Cages" in other prisons, incarcerated people, prison staff and cities can continue with the work for and with the dogs, at the public shelters and in the kennels inside the prison facilities. The CAVE CANEM Foundation will follow the Spoleto prison even after the completion of the project, untile we are certain that everything is working properly even without our presence.

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

Still no awards or recognition, but the CAVE CANEM Foundation hopes the BetterWithPets to be the first!

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).

The costs directly paid by the CAVE CANEM Foundation are related to lessons for the incarcerated people (when the teachers do not volunteer), to transfer expenses, to the cost of the kennels structures inside the prison (that are built by incarcerated people) and some work bursaires for the incarcerated people to work at the public shelter The rest of the costs, mainly the other personnel cost, are covered by the prison, both through the work carried on by prison staff and by incarcerated people, while the City of Spoleto provides for means of transportation, both for incarcerated people and for dogs. Raising more funds will allow the Foundation to pay for more work bursaires for the incarcerated people that received training, allowing them to work as shelter worker and dog trainers for dogs with behavioral issues, and replicate "Outside the Cages" in other prisons and cities that are willing to experience this new type of mutual relationships between these "prisoners", helping both

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! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

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! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 33.3%

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 - 66.7%

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 - 33.3%

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 - 33.3%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 33.3%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 33.3%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 33.3%

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 - 0%

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 - 0%

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! - 100%

Other option - 0%


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