AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION CREATES HOPE FOR SAVING BELOVED PETS
Waggle (waggle.org), a pioneering crowdfunding source, dedicated to helping sick or injured pets regain good health, launches officially in October, 2018, after a short beta trial, which began late spring. Arguably, the first of its kind on the Internet, Waggle’s goal is to prevent what veterinarians refer to as “economic euthanasia”—a far-too-common, tragic outcome for too many patients of veterinary practices; this occurs when a pet owner, unable to afford medical treatment, must make a wrenching decision to let a pet go. Waggle can provide a hopeful solution for an optimistic outcome for all.
“Heartbreaking economic euthanasia is simply unacceptable for both the pet guardian and a pet in need,” notes founder and CEO, Steven Mornelli, a passionate animal lover and business executive who has witnessed this tragic occurrence too often and who felt that there had to be a way to address this tragedy. “A half- million pets in the US are put down annually* for lack of financial resources for treatment,” he observes. “Waggle is a trustworthy means to help families who have lost hope. We provide a trusted solution.” It is Mornelli’s hope and expectation that Waggle can help to reduce the number of pets—and their families--in this situation, giving all a second chance.
HOW HAS WAGGLE RETOOLED?
Prior to the beta trial, Waggle aligned with hundreds of veterinary practices, mostly large-scale and multi- outlet hospitals (veterinary partners, or VPs), throughout the United States and Canada, in order to reach the greatest number of potential clients right out of the gate. Over the last few months, while in beta mode, Waggle also signed up many small veterinary practices, which are less able to underwrite the charity cases that larger facilities can take on. Vets are often left with debt from well-meaning clients, and it is known within the profession that all practices perform a certain amount of gratis work. Waggle can siphon off some of that pro bono work, allowing vets to take on other, more needy cases.
Additionally, Waggle has since collaborated with many rescue and shelter organizations (RSs), which are always in need of funds to cover the medical costs of sick or injured pets surrendered to them. RSs know that they must underwrite medical costs for compromised animals, in order for them to be adoptable, and those expenses consistently deplete their coffers. Waggle is a lifeline for them.
While in beta mode, Waggle received an overwhelming number of requests from individual pet guardians (PGs), asking if they themselves could post their animals’ cases on Waggle. Realizing that Waggle could help far more animals by allowing this, with the relaunch, Waggle has created a foolproof process for individuals to do just that. The forms that a hospital, RS, or a PG must complete are simple, with prompts to help navigate through the process, guaranteeing a smooth conclusion.
Prior to launching Waggle, Mornelli undertook extensive research into crowdfunding and felt it was the ideal channel to connect pets in need with animal lovers everywhere. Mornelli reports that crowdfunding has mushroomed from some $2 billion in 2011 to $34 billion in 2016 and is expected to balloon to $90 billion by 2025.** So he set about to build out the website and establish a veterinary network. Most importantly, Waggle guarantees that the donations go directly to the veterinary hospital performing the services, providing complete transparency.
Mornelli explains that most crowdfunding platforms are for-profit, and popular ones like Kickstarter and Pozible are targeted to enable creative ideas to come to fruition; others, like Crowdrise and JustGiving promote social causes; still others, like GoFundMe and Indiegogo underwrite just about anything. Waggle is structured as two legal entities: a for-profit B Corp (Waggle Care, Inc.), a new breed of business; and a 501(c)3 (Waggle Foundation, Inc.), a not-for-profit organization. B Corps are dedicated to solving social and environmental issues; some examples of B Corps are Warby Parker, Ben & Jerry’s, and Patagonia. With this arrangement, Waggle has the financial wherewithal to meet administrative expenses, without eating into the funding stream allocated for pet care. Donors will have the option to earmark their contribution for a specific case and that entire amount is funneled toward that animals’ treatment. Donors are assessed an 8% fee, a common amount on crowdfunding sites, for operating purposes. Beyond that, if a supporter wishes to give a “tip” toward additional organizational overhead and expenses, there is a place on the donation form for that, as well.
HELP FROM PARTNERS
Ultimately, corporate partners and foundation grants are expected to help underwrite the Waggle Foundation. Waggle has already received grants from Maddie’s Fund and Eli’s Fund, both dedicated to the well-being of animals and finding solutions for those in need, and both champion animal issues. Money from both funds will periodically be allocated for matching grants for individual pets’ campaigns. Waggle hopes that donors will give more generously to individual Waggle cases, when they know that their contributions are being matched.
Trupanion, a leader in medical insurance for cats and dogs, has become a valued Waggle corporate steward. “While increased, proactive adoption of quality medical insurance for pets would go a long way to help avoid financial barriers to care, Waggle has created a solution to help fill the gap and provide assistance when financial resources are exhausted,” commented Dr. Steve Weinrauch, BVMS, MRCVS, Chief Veterinary Officer at Trupanion. Another valued Waggle steward is MightyVet, whose mission is to nurture and evolve the veterinary ecosystem for the common good of pets, families, and the veterinary professionals entrusted with the care of those pets.
HOW DOES WAGGLE WORK?
As the only pet-dedicated funding platform that partners with leading veterinary clinics around the country, Waggle’s “eyes and ears” are the veterinarians who toil in the proverbial trenches daily. When faced with a case that a practice might otherwise have to turn away for lack of funds, the practice will determine a candidate’s eligibility for Waggle assistance and guide the pet owner to the Waggle website. Similarly, a PG or RS can initiate a campaign and post it on the Waggle site and at the same time invite the veterinary practice to also participate by including the treatment information and by sharing on social media. No matter the source, the case background will include salient information on both the guardian/animal, a description of the illness/condition, the proposed treatment, the expected outcome, level of urgency, and costs. The case and a photo and/or video will be posted on the Waggle website for public viewing and VPs, RSs, PGs are all encouraged to share their postings among friends and colleagues in their own community and on social media, as well. Waggle’s trusted imprimatur assures that the case has been vetted and verified.
At present, to be able to fund as many cases as possible, there is a cap of $5,000 per animal. (This figure was determined to be realistically typical by the veterinary members of Waggle’s advisory committee.) Waggle guarantees that 100% of the donations earmarked for a particular case will go to that individual animal’s care; the money will be sent directly to the veterinary hospital, providing total transparency. When that $5,000 threshold has been reached, the website will indicate that the case is “funded” and will direct donors to the general listings, featuring other cases still in need of revenue.
“As veterinarians, we have long witnessed the sad reality that financial restraints often result in pain and suffering, and even unnecessary euthanasia of the pets we treat,” observes Dr. Rob Olson, a Waggle advisory board member and the co-owner of the Pieper-Olson Veterinary Hospital, based in Middletown, CT, with three other locations in the state. “Waggle offers an innovative solution by connecting animals and pet parents in need with life-saving resources.” Indeed, Mornelli expects that in its first few years, Waggle will save thousands of pets and will be responsible for many enduring and “happily ever after” outcomes.
Bio / Steven Mornelli, Founder and CEO
Steve has been an ardent animal lover his entire life. He has been pet guardian first to Sam, a kitten he was given at age 10, who was with him for 18 years; next he rescued Shasta, a beloved Sheltie (who lived to 17), who was followed by Benito, a feisty Sheltie who worked very hard to live up to his name; currently, he is dad to Gracie, a Yorkie-cocker-poodle mix, whom he considers “the best dog on the planet.” On the business front: Steve has spearheaded international teams in diverse fields, including data science, engineering, and institutional equity research. He has solid experience parsing advanced behavior-based analytics as a partner for the big-data firm Teradata, experience that has helped hone his considerable skills and critical insights into social- and business-network dynamics. Formerly, Steve served as SVP at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. (NYC) and for Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. (London).