All photos via Petco Foundation

Petco Launches the 'Shark Tank' of Animal Welfare

The second annual "Innovation Showdown" aims to brainstorm lifesaving ideas for pets.

Submissions are now being accepted until February 16, 2018 for the second round of Petco Foundation and the Jackson Galaxy Foundation's Innovation Showdown, modeled after the hit TV show "Shark Tank." Animal professionals are invited to compete for investments totaling up to $350,000 for their "lifesaving" animal ideas.

One major difference separates Innovation Showdown from "Shark Tank." The ultimate goal of the event and the investors is not a financial return on investment but a lifesaving return on investment—that is to save the lives of more animals in need.   

Proposals are narrowed down to two finalists. Then, the top contestants have a chance to present their ideas to a panel of investors at the Humane Society of the United States' Animal Expo May 14-17 in Kansas City, Mo. Investors decide live at the Innovation Showdown symposium how much they want to invest in the lifesaving opportunity.

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Pima Animal Care Center, one of the runner-ups in the 2017 Innovation Showdown, teamed up with an assisted living memory care facility to save the lives of orphaned kittens and help seniors at the facility feel needed.

This year's judging panel of investors includes Matt Bershadker (ASPCA), Julie Castle (Best Friends Animal Society), Jackson Galaxy (the Jackson Galaxy Project), Mary Ippoliti-Smith (Maddie's Fund), Aimee Gilbreath (Michelson Found Animals Foundation), Susanne Kogut (the Petco Foundation) and Christy Counts (WaterShed Animal Fund).

Susanne Kogut, the Petco Foundation Executive Director, talked about the event's mission. She said:

"The Innovation Showdown aspires to encourage ideas that will change the landscape of animal welfare. All of the participating national organizations share the same goal—to end needless euthanasia of animals in this country.  By joining forces in this year's Showdown, we can make a meaningful impact with a more significant investment pool and feedback from the industry's experts to debate the lifesaving potential of each new idea." 

Participating organizations include, the ASPCABest Friends Animal SocietyThe Humane Society of the United StatesThe Jackson Galaxy ProjectMaddie's Fund®Michelson Found Animals Foundationthe Petco Foundation and the WaterShed Animal Fund.
Last year, actress Jane Lynch hosted the first ever Innovation Showdown. Nearly 200 idea submissions were received and two winners, the Animal Care Centers of NYC for their digital shelter concept ($100,000) and Brandywine Valley SPCA for "Mama in a Box," a kitten feeding solution ($50,000), took home the top two honors.

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Judges (Shark Tank's Daymond John, Susanne Kogut, executive director of the Petco Foundation and Jackson Galaxy) of the first Innovation Showdown take a break from judging to snuggle with a baby kittens

Kogut answered some of our questions about the upcoming event in an exclusive Wide Open Pets interview:

WOP: How successful have the investment finalist ideas from last year's showdown been?

We will have some very exciting updates to share about 2017 finalists in the coming months but I don't want to give away the details just yet.

Have any of last year's runner-ups been successful in implementing their ideas?

Yes, Pima Animal Care Center is a great example. They teamed up with an assisted living memory care facility to save the lives of orphaned kittens. This program not only helps give kittens the 24-hour care they need to survive but also helps the seniors at the memory care facility feel needed. They have plans to bring innovative foster programs like this to not only memory care facilities, but to other similar facilities across Pima County.  This innovative idea is featured on the most recent PBS series of Shelter Me.  

Can viewers tune in live to the finalist presentations at the conference?

This is something we are exploring for this year's event. If not live, we will provide a video recap of the live event.


Orphaned kitten at Pima Animal Care Center is part of a life-saving program that won investment from the first Innovation Showdown.

Is this intended to be an ongoing annual event?

Yes, we certainly hope so.  We have seen a tremendous shift in our country in our attitude about animals.  Nonprofits and government-run departments have proven that when we resolve to never be complacent about saving animals and constantly strive to do better, we can, in fact, create lifesaving communities.  Constant improvement and innovation are standard for businesses and corporations to succeed.  But, I would argue it is even more important in the animal welfare arena where the return on investment isn't about profit but it's about saving animal lives.  We intend for this collaborative project to continue so long as there are animals that need us because we are determined to succeed in our goal to create a lifesaving nation. 

To see a video recapping last year's event and the top two winners' presentations, click here. If you'd like to send in a submission, read the guidelines here.

What lifesaving ideas do you have for pets? Share in the comments below!

All photos via Petco Foundation.

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