From Facebook to YouTube, social media platforms are being used by rescues and shelters around the world to help the dogs in their care.
Social media has its good and bad sides, but one of its greatest attributes is the many ways in which it’s helping rescue and shelter dogs. From Facebook pages to YouTube channels, animal organizations around the world are using social media to get the word out about their work, and about the dogs in their care. Their posts and videos can serve a variety of purposes, whether it’s garnering donations, finding forever homes for dogs, or promoting awareness of animal advocacy in general. Social media has also awakened millions of people to the plight of dogs in other countries, such as Costa Rica, Greece, Puerto Rico and Romania. In this article, we’ll profile three rescue organizations in different regions of the world, and look at how social media is helping them help dogs.
Facebook a boon for this breed-specific rescue
Some rescue organizations, such as Seattle Purebred Rescue in Washington State, focus on specific breeds; this means finding the right forever homes for the dogs can be a little more challenging, depending on the breeds’ specific requirements. Social media can be a big help in these cases. Jennifer Patterson, the German shorthair pointer representative for Seattle Purebred Rescue, relies on Facebook to find homes for the dogs in her care.
“I can’t imagine trying to find the perfect home for a rescue dog without Facebook,” says Jennifer. “It’s fantastic being able to reach out to a large group of people who are already excited and knowledgeable about German shorthair pointers. A common mistake shelters make when rehoming these dogs is that they adopt out to families who aren’t prepared for the energy levels and the exercise requirements the breed comes with.” Prior to arriving at Seattle Purebred Rescue, some German shorthair pointers have been rehomed several times, which is very stressful for the dogs.
“Another bonus is how quickly things can get done,” Jennifer adds. “If someone contacts me with a situation where a dog needs to be immediately fostered or transported from one place to another, it’s easy to find volunteers who are willing to help out in a pinch.”
Social media tools also help disabled dogs through a sharing of their stories. “These stories pull at people’s heartstrings and often result in multiple applications,” says Jennifer, adding that Facebook helps her cut to the chase when deciding exactly who to adopt out to. “When I start my search for a perfect forever home with a group of people who already understand what they’re getting into, it becomes much easier to focus on finding the best fit for the dog’s personality rather than just finding an okay home. Facebook also helps because people in the group often share the posts with friends who they know are looking to adopt.”
Website and Facebook page find homes for dogs and educate the public
A dog fostering organization in Surrey, British Columbia, Home at Last Dog Rescue (HALDR) relies on Facebook and a website, with two volunteers posting updates every week, to get the word out.
“We like the website because it attracts a broad spectrum of viewers who are interested in adopting homeless dogs,” said HALDR director, Maureen Pickell. “Facebook is also excellent for our purposes because people love to see the pictures, enjoy the stories we post, and participate in discussions.”
That’s not all social media does for this organization. “We’re able to help find missing or stolen dogs by bringing awareness to the community that dog theft is an increasing problem,” Maureen says. “We also encourage people to ‘adopt not shop’ when thinking of adding a dog to their families.” HALDR additionally uses social media for fundraising when animals require emergency care. “Social media is also useful for reminding people of the terrible conditions dogs are faced with in other countries, and how we might help. HALDR does not import foreign dogs, but we do contribute to spay and neuter programs in those countries.”
Thanks to social media posts, people are also now adopting more senior and special-needs dogs — usually the hardest animals to find homes for. “Currently, we have a 14-year-old dog who, thanks to interest generated through Facebook, has found a wonderful new home to live out his last few years,” Maureen says.
She does point out one downside of social media campaigns to adopt out dogs. “Our goal is to find the best possible home for each dog, so receiving many applications is a bonus.” Maureen adds, however, that a single dog may attract 100 applications, which means 99 prospective adopters will be disappointed. “The downside comes from the negative comments we sometimes receive from people who aren’t chosen to adopt a particular dog.”
YouTube videos raise awareness of animal rescue
Located in Rajasthan, India, Animal Aid Unlimited (AAU) was founded in 2002 by Erika Abrams, her spouse Jim Myers and daughter Claire Abrams-Myers. They employ 100 staff and receive the help of 30 international volunteers at any given time. The organization houses 600 animals — mostly dogs – and their mission is to bring awareness to the suffering of animals and the heroic humans who rescue them from miserable conditions.
AAU relies heavily on social media to achieve their mission. The organization’s YouTube channel provides viewers with compelling rescue stories that portray the resilience of animals combined with human compassion. In one harrowing example from 2016, a man climbed down a well to save a puppy. The video of the rescue received over four million views and 66,000 likes, while AAU’s YouTube channel attracted 3.9 million subscribers.
“The primary purpose of our use of social media is to raise awareness,” says Claire. “If rescues and shelters can share the stories of the phenomenal animals and caring people who help them, it multiplies the good we can do together.”
AAU has several staff members to shoot the videos while Claire edits the footage. “We have several people who spend each day shooting video and cataloging footage,” she says. “We often follow 50 animal recovery stories simultaneously.”
The organization does not, however, use social media to find homes for dogs in countries outside India. “In India, many street dogs have good lives,” Claire says. “They are stimulated, active, often appreciated by neighbors, are sociable and healthy. And because we have laws that protect street dogs from displacement and killing, we discourage overseas adoptions because we feel there are already so many homeless dogs in everyone’s home countries. Until those dogs are adopted and out of shelters, we feel it doesn’t make sense to transport dogs out of India.”
We view social media as both a blessing and a curse. But when it comes to promoting animal adoption and welfare, it provide multiple and far-reaching ways to find forever homes for dogs, enhance fundraising efforts, educate and engage the public, and open and inspire the hearts and minds of people around the world.
Patricia Herlevi is a novelist, journalist and spiritual coach who uses social media to educate and inspire her viewers. She started writing about animal rescue after fostering a German shorthair pointer named Sobaka for nearly two years. She has published articles in a variety of publications and is currently writing a memoir about fostering Sobaka.