A pilot project using dogs to help people combat loneliness is being trialled in Melton.
Dog Dates is the brainchild of Mars Petcare, who chose the borough because it is based here and after it recently helped the town become the UK’s most pet-friendly place to live.
The company wants local owners to sign up their dog to the scheme.
And if they are approved as suitable animals they will then be paired with an elderly or vulnerable person, who can sign up to take part.
It follows research by Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, which indicates that pets can help older people to remain physically and socially active for longer.
A special Pedigree Dog Date event will kick the scheme off on Thursday, April 12, at Melton Country Park.
Tim Humphries, Pedigree main meal brand manager, said: “We want as many owners to sign up their dogs as possible.
“The pets will then be paired up with people, who will be able to spend time with the animal, with the owner being present as well.
“This scheme is aimed at those who are aged over 65 and who may be suffering from loneliness.
“It is the first time we’ve done anything like this, but if it is successful in Melton we plan to continue it in the town and then roll it out across the country.”
Gosia Faras, corporate affairs director for Mars Petcare, said: “Loneliness is a big issue in the UK.
“We found through research that over 200,000 older people do not have a conversation with another person in more than a month.
“This is why we started Dog Dates because pets can really help people combat feelings of loneliness.”
Go online at uk.pedigree.com/dogdates to sign up as a dog owner, or as someone who would like to be paired up with a dog on April 12, and to find out more about the scheme.