How to really help – and not just on social media

By Charlene Bobis

You see plenty of posts online: photos, videos of abused animals, animals needing rescue, animals needing adoption, reports of terrible owners. But sharing may do more harm than good, believe it or not. Simply liking or reacting does not help the animal, and posting comments of pity likewise do absolutely nothing.

So what can you do?

Here, we take a look at common posts on social media, explain what’s wrong (or right), and give you recommendations on what you can do to help. (Editor’s note: We’ve blanked out names, photos, dates, and times whenever necessary because we are not aiming to shame anyone but to teach readers what to do to truly help.)

 

The “Up” comment

What’s wrong: Yes, commenting “UP” will put a post higher in a group and may help it be seen by more people. But in the end, does it help? Not at all. For that matter, making comments like “poor baby hope s/he finds his/her forever home” is nice but in the end, it does nothing.

What you can do: Share the post with people truly looking to adopt a pet, or invite animal-loving friends to “like” those Facebook pages so that the reach of each post can be amplified.

Tagging animal welfare groups, popular magazines (even those which have nothing to do with pets), and animal loving celebrities when a report on an abused animal is shared online.

What’s wrong: What’s stopping the commentator (whose name is blanked out using red above) from doing something themselves? Animal welfare groups are already overburdened with animals in need and receive very little help, as explained in the screenshot.

“Everything has the power to do something,” and that something shouldn’t be merely to criticize. That’s useless.

What you can do: Don’t be a keyboard warrior – there are completely and totally useless. Don’t just tag all animal welfare groups you know of when commenting on cases of animal abuse or neglect on social media.

Instead, volunteer at a shelter. Donate cash, pet food, old newspapers, pet milk, detergent, mops, garbage bags – anything! Share posts for their sponsorhip and adoption drives on your own social media accounts. Have a look at Facebook pages or websites of these groups to see what you can do to help. Or you can quietly take in animals on your own and get guidance from them on stering and adopting.

What’s wrong: What’s stopping the commentator (whose name is blanked out using red above) from doing something themselves? Animal welfare groups are already overburdened with animals in need and receive very little help, as explained in the screenshot.

“Everything has the power to do something,” and that something shouldn’t be merely to criticize. That’s useless.

What you can do: Don’t be a keyboard warrior – there are completely and totally useless. Don’t just tag all animal welfare groups you know of when commenting on cases of animal abuse or neglect on social media.

Instead, volunteer at a shelter. Donate cash, pet food, old newspapers, pet milk, detergent, mops, garbage bags – anything! Share posts for their sponsorhip and adoption drives on your own social media accounts. Have a look at Facebook pages or websites of these groups to see what you can do to help. Or you can quietly take in animals on your own and get guidance from them on stering and adopting.

Seen an abused animal lately? Anna Cabrera, executive director of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, issued the following statement that every true animal lover should understand, and can apply in these situations.

 

Complaining about the procedure for adoption

What’s wrong: We can’t post screenshots of the actual cases for legal reasons, but there are many cases in which scam artists and abusive people adopt rescued purebreds then either resell or forcibly breed them until they die. The screenshot (below left) is just one of the many warnings issued on various animal welfare sites.

What you can do: Understand that adoption policies are in place to protect the animal, and are not there for the convenience of the one adopting. Animals up for adoption often have already gone through abuse, and these policies, home inspections, and the like are in place to prevent a repeat of the abuse.

Plus, it’s simple: if a person can’t commit to or abide by adoption policies, how can anyone be sure that person can commit to the responsibility that comes with adopting an animal? Help out by explaining this to the person concerned; it’s always best to do this by private messaging.

 

Animal “dumping” posts

What’s wrong: The person who posted this should be caring for the animals, not passing them on—and for no good reason, apparently. The emotional blackmail contained in the reference to the cats possibly being hurt or killed shifts the responsibility onto people who were not responsible for putting the cats in the bad situation to begin with.

What you can do: Call out these posts when you see them, but do try to get the bigger picture so that you don’t end up accidentally crucifying someone who is trying to help (for example, this could be a helper at some place where the owners have never spayed or neutered their cats, and the helper is trying to save them after being asked to dispose of them). It may be best to do this by private message as Pinoys are notorious for getting angry and defensive if challenged or embarrassed in public.

Animal welfare groups like PAWS, CARA, PART, and many others have FAQ or frequently asked question pages to guide you on how to respond to these kinds of posts. A good start would be to ask the poster why they are putting the animals up for adoption, and to ask about the circumstances behind the situation.

 

Insistence on passing responsibility for an animal’s rescue on to animal welfare groups

What’s wrong: Related to the first item on this page is a person reporting an animal for rescue on social media, then balking when given advice on what to do. What the original poster’s first response really says, “You must risk yourselves because I won’t take the risk of being bitten myself.” Asking where to post pictures is rather rude: the person was already offered advice, then to ask where else s/he could go for help is petulant and almost childish—“If I can’t get my way, I’ll go elsewhere,” it appears to say.

What you can do: Aside from not rejecting help and advice offered, do not become angry or defensive if you are asked to do something for an animal by yourself. You are, after all, in the best position to act first! Animal welfare is a commitment; you can’t just expect someone else to do something then feel good because you think you’re helping – because you’re not.

If you run into someone like this, offer advice (do not insult or put down or call them names) and, if you know them personally, offer to help out if you can. (Do not, however, offer help to strangers because this may put you in danger.) Sometimes they simply do not know that what they say can be rude or inconsiderate. Help teach them, and guide them on what to do.

Reporting on social media is only the first step. Animal welfare groups cannot violate the law by removing animals from abusive owners-they will need help from the police, and to do this they will need official documentation and affidavits. Social media reports are almost completely worthless when it comes to legal procedures. Do the paperwork and invest the time to truly help out.

 

This appeared in Animal Scene’s January 2017 issue.