I am going to make the bold statement that Facebook and other online social media websites are making a substantial impact on the number of cats adopted from rescue centers and shelters throughout the United States. I wonder if things are genuinely being turned around and the mass annual slaughter of rescue cats will diminish for the first time in years.
Of course it isn’t just about Facebook. There are many other websites promoting shelter cats including, of course, this one. Also rescue centers are improving. But I think the key is an increased awareness of both the quality of rescue cats and the simple fact that an adopter is saving a life. They are doing some good and promoting the work of improving cat welfare as opposed to the opposite when a cat is bought from a pet shop or breeder.
Nowadays, Facebook is heavily utilised by cat rescue organisations where they can promote their work, engage with like-minded people and achieve higher adoption rates.
Facebook and other websites have opened the eyes of the public to the large number of euthanised cats and dogs. Americans still underestimate the number (now an estimated 2.7 million) but people are being educated via social media.
Once people understand the vast numbers of unnecessary, annual killings they become advocates of shelter adoptions.
Lisa LaFontaine the CEO of the Washington Humane Society is very optimistic about the future of shelters. She is foreseeing the day when they have to tell potential adopters that they have run out of rescued cats and dogs. Bring it on!
In the USA, at present, there is an even split between rescue animals adopted and euthanised: 2.7 million annually.
It appears that people working in rescue feel that there is a shift towards a more animal-friendly future.
A poll by Petsmart Charities supports this. In 2014, 66% of people polled said they had adopted from a shelter while in 2011 the figure was 58%.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter has more than doubled its adoption rate over the period 2011 to 2014. They put this down to innovative methods such a better quality photos of dogs and cats on Facebook.
The quality of shelter photography is so important and is improving because a lot of decision making on adoption takes place online looking at photos.
In addition, restrictions on animal adoption have been relaxed. This has helped as it allows shelters to take pets where the adopters are; at festivals for example. Also the transportation of animals by volunteers between shelters opens doors to more adoptions because animals are transported to places where adoption is more likely. Some people say there isn’t a cat overpopulation problem but a distribution problem.
I have mentioned some methods to increase adoptions. The other side of the coin – reduced abandonments – is equally important. Once again this is about education. This side of the coin is a harder nut to crack.
Cat owners should be able to say with pride that their cat is a rescue cat rather than a certain breed. There is certainly a greater reason to be proud when adopting a shelter cat.
Gary Winograd should be given credit. In his book, Redemption, The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, he makes the case for more imaginative and purposeful ways to match rescue animal with adopter. It appears that Facebook is a vehicle which can be used with imagination and purpose.