Americans love their pets. Millions of people have family members of the fur variety; however, 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats still enter animal shelters each year. Don’t worry–my goal for this post is not to make you feel like you’re watching one of the infamous Sarah McLachlan ads on TV. Instead, I want to spotlight the great work that animal advocates are doing around the country and show how social media is a part of it.
I come from a family of dog lovers. When I say “dog” I really mean “rescue dog.” Each dog in my family has been bought from a local shelter, PetSmart adoption center, or petfinder.com. The process of adopting a dog has changed over the years. In the past, animals were adopted by going into a physical location. We got my first dog Katie in 1997 by walking into our local MSPCA shelter. My mom knew that Katie was a keeper when she didn’t bark at my after I pulled her tail. After searching the internet in 2006, my grandparents adopted their dog Mandy through a PetSmart adoption center. Lastly, in 2009, we adopted my current dog Luna through Petfinder and a series of emails.
What is being done?
There are even more ways to find out about dogs that need adoption than there were the last time my family adopted. Shelters are using social media to spread the word about adoptable dogs. People who may not have been likely to step foot in a shelter are being exposed to posts about animals online. Most posts involve a picture of the animal and a brief story about their past and potential future. The social media campaigns are working. Fort Worth Animal Care and Control in Texas has seen great results from its Facebook page; rescues have increased by 150% since the page’s inception. Shelters, which are often under-funded, are also creating online campaigns. Adopt A Rescue Pet Sanctuary‘s Facebook campaign raised $55,000 in a month’s time. The money that these campaigns raise is often the difference between a shelter closing or staying open. Lack of funding is also one of the reasons why shelters are forced to euthanize animals.
How to Be Successful
Like any company with an online presence, it’s important for shelters to have guidelines in place for how they will use social media. Lauren Marte, who runs Fort Worth Animal Care Control’s Facebook page explains that the way posts are worded is incredibly important. Posts with words like “urgent” and “put-to-sleep” get a lot of attention, but posts with harsher words like “murdered” or “killed” are not allowed on her page. They send the wrong message, and often create negativity around shelters instead of positivity.
It’s also a good idea to have a policy on what Facebook users who are not affiliated with the shelter can post. Inappropriate language does come up in comments, so it may need to be taken off of the page. This leads into one of the most important aspects of a successful page: staying current. It’s important to keep the page up to date. This includes monitoring comments, giving quick responses, and most importantly giving updates on the animals. If an animal gets adopted or fostered, it’s crucial to show an updated picture of the success story!
Be sure to check out the Animal Rescue League of Boston or a local shelter near you!