I love being a pet owner and apparently so don’t a lot of other people. There are approximately 70 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in the Unites States. Add to that pet rabbits, turtles, birds, snakes, and other members of the animal kingdom and you have an industry impacting about 80 million households.
The data is a little inconsistent but best estimates are 30%-40% of pets are obtained through adoption. We’ve all seen those bumper stickers that ask the question; Who Saved Who. People who adopt not only get a companion but adoptions gives an altruistic feeling knowing that a life was saved and animal found it’s forever home. Approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized every year (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats) according to ASPCA statistics.
Recently a friend had to deal with her cat crossing over the rainbow bridge. For those of you who don’t know what that is here is a link (rainbow bridge poem) but fair warning have Kleenex ready. Anyway I digress, long story short she was looking to get a new cat but she has very specific requirements, the cat must be a male, long haired, orange tabby. So off to the Tinder of animal adoption she went-(Petfinder).
With pets and pet adoption being such a big industry I had some questions on what impacts social media and the internet has had. I looked in detail at one of the most popular sites for matching animals and owners, Petfinder. Also I asked the experts and interviewed the manager of the Worcester Animal Rescue League (WARL) to see how technology has changed how it does business. Finally there are some Do’s and Don’ts that are good advice for all of us who want to help.
You don’t actually swipe with Petfinder but it’s abundance of animals and the ability to search for your perfect match has helped it grow in popularity and as of 2016 claims it
has resulted in 25 million adoptions. Petfinder was founded in 1996 as Petfinder.org to connect homeless animals with people who want them. Now operating as Petfinder.com, it is the largest online pet adoption website and is currently owned by Nestle Purina Pet Care Company. The site facilitates pet adoptions for nearly 14,000 animal shelters and rescue organizations. Petfinder.com is a for profit business and generates revenue through advertisements, sponsorship, and match services. People are directed to Petfinder.com through various shelters and foster homes posting on social media. Petfinder also does a great job of generating content by encouraging people to share stores on Instagram and Twitter, check it out at #MetOnPetfinder.
The Petfinder site is a wealth of information. There are articles about all things pets, tips about care, information on shelters and rescues, along with videos. If you really are specific about what type of pet you are looking for have no fear. You can search by animal and include, age, breed, and gender. Geography is no longer an issue either, with Petfider.com you can find your perfect pooch match even if it is across the country. My search for a female puppy within a 25 mile radius came back with so many adorable options I wanted them all!
Interview with WARL- Worcester Animal Rescue League
Marie Gryszowka: Volunteer Coordinator WARL
- What are some of the benefits of using social media for WARL?
“WARL benefits from using a few social media platforms and uses a variety of platforms to engage our fans by sharing success stories, asking for donations, and posting stray animals that need homes.”
- What if any are some of the negative aspects of social media for WARL or pet adoption in general?
“One negative aspect I have had to deal with is customers putting in adoption applications through Petfinder for animals that don’t fit well into their homes then being upset when the animal is either already on hold or can’t be adopted out them.”
- What types of online or social media platforms does WARL use?
“WARL uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, website, and Petfinder.”
- How do you mostly use social media at WARL?
“We use each platform a bit differently. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are used for promotion, donations, and feel good stories. Email is one of our major contacts for questions. Our website and Petfinder are used for adoptable animals.”
- In your experience have most people gone online to find pets before coming into a shelter?
“The people coming in off the street vs. those using a website first is about 50/50. Many people come in with animals in mind but some just want to see what we have.”
Dos and Dont’s
We’ve all seen those heartbreaking photos on Facebook or Twitter with pleas to help some sad eyed dog or cat find their forever home but unless you want to become We bought a Zoo the sequel you might have questions on what you can do to help. Here are some Dos and Don’ts especially when it comes to social media.
- Don’t cluttering the comments: The person trying to find a home for an animal has to read through all those comments and a serious inquiry could be missed by unnecessary comments about how cute the animal is or how you wish you could help.
- Don’t become sir TAG a lot: Similar to above tagging adds a lot of unnecessary text that will need to be filtered through and unless you seriously think the person you are tagging will be interested just screen shot the site and direct message instead.
- Don’t be a Social Media Shamer: Posts stating the obvious that are intended to shame people into helping is the worse form of slactivism. Chance are that your comment “someone needs to save this dog” isn’t going to create the desired call to action you think it will.
- Do share: Social Media sites have become invaluable to shelters by bringing awareness to their needs and showcasing animals that are in need of homes so help spread the word.
- Do volunteer: Can’t adopt, no problem. Shelters need volunteers at fund-raising and adoption events, cleaning the shelter, caring for animals, and even data entry can be helpful.
- Do use your specialized skills: If you have a special skill then put it to work. Photography can make all the difference for an animal since so many pets are being searched for online. Grant writers and graphic designers can help a shelter update their site to attract more users and earn more funds.
- Do foster: Not ready for a long term commitment that’s ok. Open up your heart and home to foster an animal until they can be matched to their forever home.
- Do donate: Have a little spare cash, blankets, cleaning supplies, or even old appliances call your local shelter to see if they are in need.
The digital age has transformed the pet adoption industry much for the better. Year after year the number of animals euthanized has declined as websites are matching people with their pet soul mates and lost pets are being reunited with their owners. There are some downsides of course to social media but the overall impacts have been positive.