EN| Meet Femke Pasquino, founder of pet-matching platform Verhuisdieren.nl!

EN| Meet Femke Pasquino, founder of pet-matching platform Verhuisdieren.nl!

Q: Hi Femke! Super nice to get to know you! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Of course! I'm Femke, I live in Edam with my husband, 9-year-old son and our two dogs Lotje and Canello. They are both "second-chance dogs", which is what I call dogs that already have a past. Lotje used to belong to my mother-in-law, where she did not get along with the other dog. That is why she came to live with us. Canello was actually going to be rehomed via Verhuisdieren, but I met him before that and then he didn't make it to our website. He has been living with us for 1.5 years now and we are overjoyed with him!

Q: What a great story! Besides your family and your cute four-legged friends, we heard that you originally had a different background. Can you tell us more about that?

I have always had a passion for interior design and design. But besides that creative side, I also grew up with a great love for animals. I've been a vegetarian since I was seven because I couldn't understand eating an animal. I always wanted to do something for animals. With my experience as a concept developer, I came up with the idea of setting up the Moving Animals Foundation. In the beginning, it was just a fun idea I worked on in my spare time. But now it has grown into a full-fledged organisation with 18 employees, including six volunteers and 12 freelancers. We have grown tremendously and it has now become my full-time job.

Q: Fantastic to hear that these passions have come together! In one of your videos you said 'a dating site for people and animals', could you tell us what Moving Animals is?

Moving Animals is actually a kind of dating site for people and animals, but with a unique twist. The idea came about when I was looking for a cat myself. I went to the shelter in Amsterdam, but at that time there was no cat that would suit our family situation. When I decided to have a look on Marktplaats, I thought to myself, "This is definitely not the way to rehome animals." It was all about the needs of the people who wanted an animal and looks played far too big a role.

That's when I came up with the idea of starting a matching site. If there are dating sites to match people based on character and needs, why couldn't you do that for people and animals? After all, this is a relationship you are entering into with an animal, and it is important that the animal really suits you. So the idea of a 'dating site' for people and animals was born. At Moving Animals, we match second chance animals with owners based on profiles. We look at the animal's character and needs, and make sure they match the profile of the seeker. That way, we find the perfect match and can ensure happy and long-term relationships between humans and animals.

Q: Is Moving Animals a charity or a commercial organisation?

Moving Animals is a charity with an ANBI quality mark. I chose this because I find this legal form appropriate when it comes to rehoming animals. There is also no trading in animals on our platform. That does not mean that running a foundation cannot be done in a commercial way, because we do have a revenue model and that is quite unique for a charity. We are independent of subsidies because of this model and that is very nice.

Q: Super nice that you managed to set this up in this way and build a growing organisation! In addition, you also founded the Pet School, can you tell us a bit more about this?

Moving Animals has been around for 14 years now, but the Huisdierenschool.nl since 1 year. Through this platform, we offer online courses. I actually had the idea for the Pet School before the corona period, but I thought people might not be ready for online courses back then. Of course, this has changed enormously since the pandemic. Everyone has got used to taking workshops and online courses. As we were rehoming a huge number of animals during that period who could not attend a dog school with their new owners because they were full or closed due to the lockdown, I thought to myself, "This is the time!" During that period, we worked hard to develop the Pet School and create different courses. Last year, we went live in January.

With the Pet School, we want to give owners a good start together with their adopted animals. So, with the dating site we make the match, and with the Pet School we want to make that relationship as optimal as possible by offering the right courses. So that goes beyond behaviour, it's also about health and all kinds of fun activities you can do with your pet. In this way, it complements Moving Pets very nicely and we also hope that we can even prevent rehoming. For example, imagine a dog that has severe separation anxiety. Through the Pet School, the owner can take a nice course to address this problem, which might prevent the dog from having to be rehomed. By the way, the Pet School is there for all pet owners hear! Everyone can access the platform and use our courses.

Q: That complements each other very well indeed! We're curious anyway, what does an average day look like for you?

I value mornings. I think it is important to start the day outside and get some nice exercise. Our morning ritual is to run to school with the whole family, including the dog of course. After running, my husband and I go for a bit of exercise or we go for a swim in the IJsselmeer. Our dog stays on the shore, as water is not really his thing. He comes from Andalusia and prefers to enjoy the sun. Recharged from exercise and the outdoors, we then both get to work. I often work from home or from our office in Edam. Even though our team consists of 18 people, I usually work alone. Our team consists mainly of freelancers who work from different places.

Some live abroad or drive around in a camper van and live an existence as digital nomads. At set times, we have consultations via Teams or we call. Fortunately, this goes very well. Our team is divided into several groups that deal with social media, checking profiles and providing support. I have regular contact with each group to discuss what everyone is going to do. I am also always developing new ideas and providing advice and guidance where necessary.

Q: Sounds great! You have so many interests and passions. But what is really your ultimate passion?

What a fun question. My ultimate passion actually lies in a combination of several things. First, my love for my family and our animals; I enjoy their company, and being outside together. In fact, simple happiness. But besides that, I also love a healthy lifestyle. Practising yoga and other sports and being involved in healthy eating give me great satisfaction.

I also enjoy developing new ideas. Building up projects, such as the Pet School, gives me a lot of energy. We also recently launched a webshop with merchandise such as jumpers, t-shirts, our magazine and dog leads! This is where my love for beautiful things and animals comes together. The nice thing is that all proceeds from both the Pet School and the webshop go back to Moving Animals. So every purchase helps support our mission. So for 14 years now, Verhuisdieren has felt like a start-up because you can constantly come up with new ideas and innovate. Technology, of course, moves at lightning speed and I think it's incredibly cool to stay ahead of the game and to keep optimizing.

Q: Besides adoption, Verhuisdieren also serves as a platform for finding pet sitters, could you tell us something about the importance of this?

Of course, we are now working on optimizing Oppasdieren within Verhuisdieren. After all, it has been around for 10 years, only it never gets the attention it deserves. And everything you give attention to grows, so that's what we'll be working on in the coming period!

The number of pet owners with a pet has only increased during corona time. More than half of Dutch households have one or more pets, so you can imagine how many people are looking for babysitters. Whether for holidays or work-related commitments. It is nice to have a reliable sitter and for your pet it is nice to stay in a domestic environment instead of a boarding house. At Moving Pets, we value shelter in a homely environment.

I believe it can be valuable for people considering adopting a pet to gain experience first, by looking after a dog for three weeks during the holiday period, for example. This way, they can find out if they like it and if an animal fits well within the family.

Sometimes it is also not necessary to own an animal permanently to build a nice relationship, and that is exactly the nice thing about babysitting animals. People who don't have the time 24/7 to take care of a pet for years can still establish a valuable relationship by spending time with a pet sitter on a regular basis. That's why I believe babysitting pets can be a wonderful addition to Moving Pets and the Pet School. We even plan to offer a course at the Pet School on how to be a good dog or cat sitter.

Q: Why should people choose adoption? What are the benefits of adopting a dog?

There are so many animals in the world that all deserve a loving home. So my advice is to look into that first, before encouraging breeders to breed more puppies. There are more than 2,000 animals on Moving Animals, all looking for a second chance. These include animals from private individuals in the Netherlands who can no longer care for them, as well as rescued animals from abroad. There are even young dogs as young as 16 weeks old looking for a new owner. Adopting a slightly older dog also has advantages, as you skip the puppy phase. These dogs are often already house-trained and socialized. Indeed, the puppy phase can be quite intense, something many people underestimate. I can therefore imagine that for many people it would be nice to adopt a dog who has already gone through those phases and is actually calmer. We have recently had a very nice course at the Pet School that discusses all the phases from puppy to adult dog. Link:

Q: How do you select which adopters/sitters are suitable for an animal? What kind of process precedes this?

We make the match based on profiles, just like a normal dating site. The person looking for a pet or babysitter creates a profile with information about himself, such as character, living environment, family situation and so on. And the one who wants to rehome his pet or is looking for a sitter also creates a profile for the animal. The website will then make the match. Every morning at 4am, you will receive an e-mail with new matches if you are looking for an adoptable dog or cat. If you think you would like to meet an animal and would like to send a message to the owner, you become a supporter. As a supporter, you pay a minimum of €25 a year, which you can use to contact the owner. We use this supporter contribution to maintain and optimise our platform. It also serves as a threshold, so that someone posting their pet on the platform knows that not just anyone is going to respond, like on Marktplaats.

Q: What is the advice you would like to share with people interested in adopting a dog/cat?

My advice is to really think carefully about whether you can take care of the animal long-term and which animal suits you. Ask yourself questions like: how much time do you have? How much energy can you invest? If, like me, you enjoy going for a run in the morning, for example, an active dog would be perfect, who can run along with you. But if you don't like long walks and being active, then an older dog that needs less exercise might be a good choice. So, think carefully about what you can offer the dog and what your life is like.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced with relocating animals and how have you dealt with them?

One of our biggest challenges has been working with foundations that rescue animals from abroad and re-home them in the Netherlands. Many of these organizations use Moving Animals to find suitable owners. It is important to us that these foundations work according to our house rules and standards. For example, we find it important that the animals first stay with a foster family in the Netherlands and that there is also a safety net if the adoption does not go well with the new owner. We try to work as much as possible with foundations that do it the right way, which is why we also have a 'review' option. If adopters have a good or bad experience, we encourage them to share it. At three verified complaints, we terminate the partnership with a foundation. Fortunately, most foundations do very good work, helping a lot of animals that would never have survived otherwise.

Q: How can other people help you and the organization?

People can of course help by becoming supporters of Moving Animals, but what also helps is sharing an animal on social media. For example, we now also have an ambassador program on Instagram. Every month, an Influencer helps us by drawing attention to animals on his or her account. That way, the animals find owners faster and lots of people get to know Moving Animals. We love it when other people do the same, the more people share our animals the better. You don't have to have a big account to still mean a lot to animals.

Q: We see so many success stories coming along and really enjoy that. Would you share one of your successful adoption stories? (From one of your own dogs or relocation animals).

Of course! One of my favourite adoption stories is that of my own dog Canello from Andalusia. Canello's old owner found his mother injured on the street and took her home to recuperate. Canello's father also lived there and they fell in love. That is how Canello was born. At first, she wanted to keep him because he looked so much like his father. So he stayed with his mum and dad for a very long time. After nine months, he couldn't stay anyway but his owner didn't want to rehome him in Spain. The lady who looked after Canello then is Dutch and thought of Moving Animals. She came to the Netherlands with Canello and called me because she didn't know exactly how to go about it. I agreed to meet with her to discuss but then I saw him and thought 'he's not going on Verhuisdieren at all'.

This is, of course, my own favourite Moving Pets story. But there are so many other beautifully successful matches. What I always find touching, for example, are the stories of people who are ill and looking for a new owner for their pet. In some cases, when these people die, their pets can stay with them until the very last moment while they know their animal will end up in a good place. This gives enormous peace of mind. We have been able to achieve this several times, which makes our work extra relevant and immensely satisfying.

Q: How do you hope Moving Pets and Pet School grow in the future?

What I said before, I think it is very nice that it will all strengthen each other. We already see this happening with the collaboration between Pets School and Moving Animals, and soon with Nanny Animals. We can start offering courses for host families of foreign dogs, for sitters and also for people who have adopted a dog with a backpack. Through this support, we can prevent rehoming and raise even more awareness of Moving Animals.

Q: Super cool Femke! A beautiful and inspiring entrepreneur! Thanks for allowing us to interview you and hopefully make a small contribution to Verhuisdieren in this way!

Looking for an adoptable dog, cat or babysitter for your wagging friend? Then be sure to take a look at www.verhuisdieren.nl !

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