Facebook – friend or foe?

Over the past 15 years, the internet has grown exponentially, and with it social media. Pet owners have better access to information about caring for their pets and raising happy and healthy animal companions.

For animal welfare organisations, the free service that Facebook and other social media platforms offer has proved invaluable in reaching out to the general public regarding pets up for adoption, lost and found pets or urgent donations that may be required at a specific time. Never before have organisations been able to rally troops as quickly and effectively.

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Reporting incidences of cruelty or emergencies

Don’t report or post incidences of cruelty or animal emergencies on Facebook or send them in via email. Welfare organisations do not have enough manpower to monitor these around the clock. Vital time may be lost, and investigators cannot ask additional questions that may be important to the case. * If you receive an email or see a post of animal cruelty, don’t pass it on! Call the NSPCA (011 907 3590) or your local SPCA and tell them about it. * In the case of an emergency or if you witness animal cruelty, call your local SPCA. Keep the emergency number on your cellphone. If another SPCA needs to respond, your local branch can forward the information on and call for additional help from other SPCAs or the SAPS if needed. Don’t use emergency numbers to call about adoptions or other queries, especially after hours. Respect that these numbers are for emergencies only! [/box]

Not all positive

Sadly, there is also a sinister side to the internet when it comes to animals. Backyard breeders are able to advertise their ‘stock’ for free – reaching a much larger pool of people than through the local newspapers.

Well-meaning animal lovers have also inadvertently caused difficulties for welfare organisations throughout the world as they share and post photos of the shelter animals up for adoption or animal welfare issues, sometimes years after the initial images were posted.

Christine Kuch, spokesperson for the National Council of SPCAs, says that the NSPCA is often called upon to ‘do something’ about a photograph or video footage depicting animal cruelty that is circulating via email, or posted on a website or Facebook.

“Please resist the urge to pass it on and share” is the message from the NSPCA. This often leads to other people becoming distressed and may be counter-productive in that the visual or footage could be removed before it has been traced.

You may be sharing incidents of animal cruelty with the idea that ‘people need to know’, but you may also be putting ideas into people’s heads, only to create copy-cat situations.

  • Get your March issue of Animaltalk to find out how to be a responsible Facebook user.


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