The Urbano family of Newton, Massachusetts recently gained a four-legged friend after a social network plea went viral. The Urbano children had been begging their dad for a cat, so dad made a deal: He took a photo of the kids begging and agreed they could have the feline if they gained 1,000 Facebook ‘likes.’ The joke was on dad, as the photo racked up over 100,000 ‘likes.’ The kids were laughing all the way to the shelter, which is where they picked up their new cat Hairyette Potter.
The Urbano story is a great one, but is social media overall a blessing or curse for pet adoption?
Social media has been a huge asset to the shelter I work with. We are on YouTube, Twitter, First Giving, PetFinder, and Facebook, aside from our own website. We raise money and market available animals through all of our media outlets. We are located in a small rural area, so it is important to get the word out online. As a pet foster, I use Twitter and photo sharing to give potential adopters a look into the pet’s personal life. People are more likely to feel an animal is ‘adoptable’ after seeing them cuddled up on a couch than shivering in a crate.
While shelters may utilize social media, there can be a down side. It is difficult and time consuming for small shelters to keep information that is available online updated. I once adopted a dog that was six weeks old and 5 lbs. in its adoption ad on a popular website. It wasn’t until I drove three hours away to the shelter that I found out she was four months old and nearly 30 lbs. The solution to this problem? Call the adoption representative. Ask many questions. Hope the ad is up to date, but assume it is not.
If you have ever heard of the game of telephone, you know how much information can change as it is carried along. I have seen animals suffer because of misheard or misread information posted online. Every state (and sometimes county) has different laws and rules regarding animals. The solution to this problem? Verify information for yourself. Never rely on one source for an answer to an important query. Don’t assume that bully breeds are not allowed in your apartment complex if you have not directly asked your landlord. Don’t give away your cat because your neighbor said the town law only allows two animals and you have three. If your pet has a health problem, don’t rely on internet research — take it to the vet before surrendering it.
Consider volunteering your computer savvy or social-networking skills to your local shelter. You are going to be on the computer anyway, right? You could send out a tweet about an adoption event or write a blog post to market a special pet. There are many options for volunteers within a shelter; you may be surprised at how fun or easy some can be.