Social Media Boosts Dog Adoption Efforts

The Dog Daily: Adoption
By Elijah Merrill for The Dog Daily

Social Media Boosts Dog Adoption Efforts

Scrolling down the Facebook wall of Let's Adopt! (USA) is a virtual stroll down doggie death row. The posts are a last-ditch effort to save shelter dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized. But they're also a prime example of how social media is transforming the process of rescuing and adopting animals.

"We started as a simple Facebook group in order to find homes for my rescues," says Let's Adopt! founder Viktor Larkhill. "Less than four years later, the group has expanded into a truly global network, with growing communities not only in Turkey (where it started), but also in Indonesia, Bulgaria, Germany, France, USA, Canada and Australia. All of this, and in such a short period of time, would have been impossible without social media in general and Facebook in particular."

Social Petworking

Let's Adopt! is a national effort; however, since animal rescue is usually a local phenomenon, most other social "petworks" are local. For instance, Urgent PART 2 on Facebook and Twitter only posts info about dogs in New York City shelters.

"I get the euth list every night from Animal Care & Control (AC&C) and post it on Facebook," says Kay Smith, a New York City animal activist who runs the page. She started using social media after she discovered AC&C put out a daily list of animals to be euthanized within 24 hours. There were so many dogs on the list (she estimates the daily average to be 15 to 20) that she felt overwhelmed by her inability to save them all. So she just posted the list to Facebook, and a movement was born.

Smith also agrees that social media has taken her efforts to a level she never could have achieved offline. She and Larkhill attribute this to a handful of areas where social media gives them a boost:

  • Speed — With the click of a button, Smith can post the entire to-be-destroyed list to her network.
  • Specificity — With a picture and a bio for every dog, they're more than an idea of a dog in a shelter; they're personalized, with faces and stories to tell.
  • Amplification — Says Smith: "I post the list, and if somebody with 500 friends clicks to share it, all those other people see it. And if four of those people click 'Share,' it could go to 2,000 more people, and it just snowballs."
  • Convenience — Going to the shelter is an event, but logging on to Facebook or Twitter to window-shop is a cinch. Smith wonders if it can sometimes be too easy and lead to owners who aren't ready for a rescue dog. But Larkhill says the Net can also help those matters thanks to one community.
  • Community — Social networks can help rescuers better get to know the people they're playing matchmaker for. "It has enabled us to build an unprecedented level of trust with our community," says Larkhill. "By looking at someone's profile, we can tell a lot about someone. Used correctly, Facebook provides us a deep insight into people's personality."

Online Dog Rescue/Adoption Resources

Other national projects that have a social media presence include The Shelter Pet Project, Pets911 and Adopt-a-Pet.com. Aside from Twitter and Facebook feeds, they also have searchable websites that are a pet-seeker's answer to online dating.

Beyond that, Smith suggests looking for local activists and organizations in your city and recommends always going to the shelter to visit dogs before making a commitment. If you're not able to adopt, you can still get involved. Find out if your local shelter has a social media presence or if someone advocates for the dogs there. If not, start your own Facebook page for them. "I believe the potential has only just begun to be tapped," says Larkhill. "As the level of connections increases, the power of the network increases."


Elijah Merrill is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Dog Daily. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Discover.