Romania ignored its stray dogs' problem for years. Tens of thousands of dogs were roaming the streets of Bucharest and many other cities. On September 2nd 2013 tragedy struck: a 4 year old boy left unattended was killed by a pack of stray dogs triggering a chain reaction with disastrous effects.
A mass euthanasia emergency ordinance was immediately adopted by politicians. As dog catchers flooded the streets, the hysteria pushed people to mutilate and kill dogs on their own everywhere. Spontaneous animal rights protests broke out all over Europe with people deservedly shouting: 'Shame on you, Romania!'
Four Paws needed to find a positive solution to the stray dogs' crisis. Mass euthanasia of dogs by the authorities had to be stopped. And most importantly, people's vilifying attitude towards strays that resulted in more violence had to be radically changed. If these two issues were a fixed, Romania would have a chance to redeem its image on the global and European scale as a heartless place for both dogs and people. We needed to influence the public agenda, the political agenda and ultimately the legal agenda.
The strategy was to stop the crisis through the power of example, in a never-done-before
experiment. In order to turn "dogs against people" in "dogs for people" we created The Good Dog Catcher. We partnered with a professional dog trainer specialized in rehabilitating abused dogs. He became the world's first Good Dog Catcher, who instead of hunting down stray dogs to put them to sleep, looked for stray dogs that could help. And so the search for the world's first Stray Assistance Dog began.
Namely, a stray dog that would be trained to help out people with disabilities. Assistance dogs are normal in the western world, but the trained dogs are always breed dogs. Nobody has tried it with a non-breed. And especially with one which had a tough life in the street. We approached Romanian celebrities who agreed to help out for free and become ambassadors of our cause.
Just like his infamous counterparts, our trainer wondered the streets and shelters of Bucharest in his branded van, searching for stray dogs. His trips were documented and the campaign's Facebook page was flooded with posts of people who wanted the Good Dog Catcher to visit their neighborhood. People submitted pictures and stories of the stray dogs that lived on their streets so they can become the selected candidate for the experiment. Our fan base also gave the selected dog its name: Karma.
People posted their messages of support as Karma trained hard and learned new tricks week after week. After several months of hard training, we found an owner for her: a young man named Mircea who lost both his legs in a car crash. He now legally owns Karma, the first Stray Assistance Dog in the world. Mircea and Karma have proved to Romania and the world that stray dogs can also be a solution, not just a problem.
The Romanian media, the Romanian authorities, the Romanian Parliament. And the entire Romanian population.
Our initiative has contributed to solving the crisis. For the first time in Romania, the Parliament issued a law regulating the existence, training and funding of assistance dogs, strays included. The Court of Appeal decided that the ordinance that made the mass euthanasia possible is invalid. Adoptions have increased, totaling 8000 strays legally adopted in Bucharest alone. With no media budget, The Good Dog Catcher was covered by all major TV stations in prime-time news and top audience shows.
The free coverage totaled nearly 20 million PR impressions and EUR 550,000 in rate card estimate. People from 43 countries and 5 continents became fans of our Facebook page creating a highly involved community around the cause. The FB Engagement Rate peaked at 145% (vs. 20% = pets category average), Interaction Rate reached over 5 interactions/fan and the Average fan interactions totaled over 145/day (vs. 115 = pets category average).
Project title: The Good Dogcatcher
Brand: Four Paws/ Vier Pfoten
Client: Four Paws Romania
Agentie: GMP Group
Mihai Gongu / Creative Director
Radu Rebei / Art Director
Ioana Munteanu / Group Creative Director
Ioana Munteanu / Copywriter
Mihai Gongu / Copywriter
Ioana Gheorghita / Head of Strategy
Simona Miron / Account Manager
Alexandra Rus / Account Executives
Bianca Negre / Account Executives
Casa de productie: Hypno
Zoran Stangacilovic / Video Editor
Ioana Stangacilovic / AV Producer
Robert Calin / Camera
Agentie de digital: Webstyler
Bogdan Nitu / Head of Strategy
Shortlist Premiile FIBRA #1:
Shortlist FIBRA - The Good Dogcatcher / 10.4 PR - Experiential/ Stunts