Social media has been very helpful in aiding animal shelters, but unfortunately it has also done some harm.
Jackie Keller Seidel found her dog, Bo, through social media. Bo’s photo was posted on Facebook as an appeal to at New Leash on Life Dog Rescue’s followers to find a home for him.
Seidel saw the photo of Bo and decided that she wanted him to join her in Wisconsin, but unfortunately Bo was all the way in Georgia.
“Social media was the catalyst that brought Bo to New Leash on Life. A dog in Georgia in need was seen by someone in Virginia, who knew someone in Wisconsin who may be able to help. And then the 12 volunteer drivers saw that Bo's life had worth and took time out of their lives to invest in it," said Seidel.
Stories like these are proof of the good that social media can do for shelters.
“Shelters have seen drastically reduced euthanasia rates and increased adoption,” said Heather Clarkson, the director of a South Carolina-based Australian shepherd rescue.
If you have social media, you are probably all too familiar with photos of sad-looking pets, captioned: “URGENT! WILL BE KILLED TOMORROW!”
These posts may be effective, but for many it can leave users with a sense of hopelessness – causing them to ‘unfollow’ the page.
On the other hand, these posts may lead to shelters being inundated with calls and emails from people who are not necessarily willing, or even able to help.
“One out of 50 calls in a morning about a certain animal may actually be of substance with an offer for rescue or donation while the other 49 are just calling to check on the animal’s status or complain about the situation to the shelter. These facilities operate on limited budgets with limited staff. Every minute spent fielding those well-meaning calls is a minute not being spent caring for the animals,” Clarkson said.
She goes on to say that the comments on these posts can often also lead to animals not finding homes.
“The main downside would be people commenting on a photo of a dog who needs a home with ‘I’ll take him’ or something similar and never follow through, so others assume the dog is safe or has found a home,” said Seidel.
So how can you help?
Sharing posts helps the shelter’s page, as it increases their post’s visibility and the chances of the pet finding a home.
“Instead of sharing a shelter animal 2,000 miles away… go to the shelter page for your local community and share their album of adoptables,” Clarkson advises. “It’s not just the babies and the sick ones that need to be seen — if the shelter can’t adopt out the animals they’ve already committed to in their facility, they can’t help the new ones that come in,” Clarkson says.
It’s also excellent to share the good stuff too – this will show people that their local shelter is finding forever homes for pets, keeping them motivated and inspired.