A pioneering social enterprise that brings rescue animals together with people experiencing social isolation or exclusion in a unique form of animal therapy is set to expand across the country after forming a new partnership with the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Seven years after starting at a Brisbane RSPCA animal shelter, the Happy Paws Happy Hearts program will use a 10-year $1.4 million low-interest loan from the Foundation to help launch in 36 locations nationally.

Happy Paws Happy Hearts works with participants from the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Veteran Affairs, injured worker schemes and other support services to provide group training on how to work with rescue animals and grow personally at the same time.

This funding from the Foundation’s impact investing program recognises the broader impact of Happy Paws Happy Hearts, supporting people to improve their skills and social demeanour so they can have a greater level of confidence to seek work or complete education.

The Foundation’s Chief Portfolio Officer Abhilash Mudaliar said Happy Paws Happy Hearts closely aligned with the Foundation’s strategic focus on building transitions to employment to help break cycles of disadvantage.

“Self-confidence and teamwork skills are often critical for getting and maintaining employment,” he said. “This is an evidence-based program which helps bring socially isolated or excluded people to a supportive group training environment, using animals to help drive personal development.

“We’ve seen how the skills and confidence that flow from this program can make a tremendous difference when getting people ready for further education or employment. We’re thrilled to make this investment in Happy Paws Happy Hearts as part of our goal to simultaneously strengthen social enterprises in Australia and break cycles of disadvantage.”

Happy Paws Happy Heart CEO and co-founder Zoe Black said the loan, which will run over 10 years, was a critical component in the plan to expand across the country.

“This funding arrangement accelerates our national scale up so we can bring further happiness and skills, whilst caring for rescue animals, to more people across Australia,” she said. “We’re excited to partner with Paul Ramsay Foundation for this investment and pleased with the recognition of our high impact sustainable model.

“Happy Paws Happy Heart has now delivered over 10,000 training sessions, and it is clear that being close to animals and learning how to care for them can have a significant impact for people who need extra support to build confidence and develop their skills. This simple intervention can truly deliver life-changing results.”

About the Paul Ramsay Foundation

We seek to identify and partner with individuals, communities and organisations working to break cycles of disadvantage and create an Australia where people can realise their potential.

The late Paul Ramsay AO established the Paul Ramsay Foundation in 2006 and, after his death in 2014, left the majority of his estate to continue his philanthropy for generations to come.

His commitment to good works has allowed us to support the for-purpose sector with grant commitments of more than $600 million made since 2016 across more than 120 grants, to partners committed as we are to achieving lasting change.

Media Contact: Pia Akerman, 0412 346 746