If you’re reading this, you probably consider yourself an animal lover. Maybe you’re even an animal advocate. Animals are your passion and you want to do what you can to reduce the number of companion animals euthanized or languishing in shelters. But how can you make a difference? Some ways to help homeless animals are obvious: adopt from a shelter or reputable rescue, talk to your friends about adoption, foster if you can, donate to nonprofit organizations you know and whose mission you support and report any suspected animal cruelty to authorities. Social media is also a means through which millions of people try to help homeless animals. Sharing is caring, right? Well, maybe. Social media has undoubtedly helped to find many homeless pets their forever homes. We are obviously big fans and share many of our shelter friends in an attempt to get them noticed. But, many social media posts and shares about animals accomplish little more than annoying your friends and followers while dulling them to the message of what they could really be doing to help homeless pets.
At the risk of offending some people, here is our list of “do’s” and “don’t”s for using social media to help shelter animals:
DO share animals that you or your friends know personally with honest descriptions of their personality, likes and dislikes. If they need a home without other animals or would be too high energy for small children, say it up front. Anyone serious about helping will need to know what kind of home would be best.
DO add your own comments or at least copy and paste the comments from the original post. Just hitting “share” is nowhere near as likely to attract any attention.
DO share happy stories and before and after photos. Show people that people just like them with kids, other pets, full time jobs and busy lives are finding time to volunteer, foster and adopt shelter animals.
DON’T say anything that sounds like any of the following: “somebody please save him,” “I would help but [fill in the blank] (“I have a full house”, “I live 1000 miles away”, “My dog hates other animals”, etc. etc.), These types of comments may make people feel better but they accomplish nothing and frequently crowd the comments section and bury the useful offers of help.
DON’T criticize the shelter staff for being “murderers” if the animal is in danger of being euthanized. The vast majority of shelter employees are caring individuals just like you and the last thing they want to do is euthanize an animal. They have likely reached out to no kill shelters and rescues with whom they have relationships and not found an appropriate placement. The post you are sharing is an attempt to reach out to the broadest group possible to find the right foster or adopter and criticizing them for doing it or acting as if they have a better option and are just not trying hard enough does not help.
DON’T say you pledge $10 or any other amount unless that is specifically what the person posting is looking for. In most cases, what is needed is a place for the animal to go and a few hundred dollars will not create that. In some cases, a foster home has been located and funds are needed for medical care but, if that is the case, the message will be clear and a link will be provided. When a temporary or permanent home is what is needed, vague, unenforceable pledges of money in Facebook comments are usually worthless.
Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting with like-minded people and for helping homeless animals find new families. Following these tips will help to ensure that your efforts are as productive as possible.