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Social media and technology are an important part of daily life for most of us - they are tools that help our field improve and save the lives of many animals through education, event advertising, promotion of homeless animals, and more.

 

Doing No Harm on Social Media

With over a billion daily users on Facebook alone, there is more content being generated than anyone Cute dog Kelly Bremken Podoloffcould possibly read. Many animal lovers end up spending their time on social media liking and sharing posts with cute animals.

 

So how can this media go wrong? Well, let’s start with the video of Wheelz, the paralyzed baby bunny with a skateboard wheelchair...this video went viral, with hundreds of thousands of views. It was picked up by some of the national networks, and now there is a children’s book about it sold online. Reports have come out that the video was made by a meat farm where rabbits are bred as food. This rabbit was - like other rabbit babies on the farm who died - allegedly left outside in freezing weather and attacked by other rabbits, which led to its paralysis. Wheelz died at just 4 weeks old.

 

Or how about the ever-popular “Guilty Dog” videos? You can find literally over a million videos whenGuilty Dog reults you search for the words ‘guilty dog,’ and yet studies show that there is no such thing as a guilty dog. What humans interpret as an expression of guilt is actually called a calming signal, where the dog is trying to calm a conflict with what they perceive to be an aggressor.

 

Another dangerous trend on social media involves exotic animals. Be it people who get killed when taking selfies with exotic animals, animals who get killed after being forced into a picture with people, or the promotion of exotic animal trade and captivity for entertainment, social media is often not a friend to exotic animals.

 

Pixabay Social MediaFinally, even when an animal is not being harmed, careless social media sharing can lead to spamming, hacking, copyright infringement, and even harassment. It is becoming common for pages to share viral content that is not their own, purely to get more Likes for their material. And videos that go viral can make their publishers millions of dollars. Social media harassment about an ownership conflict over a cat likely even contributed to the suicide of New York veterinarian, Dr. Shirley Koshi.

So what can you do to avoid sharing something that harms animals, perpetuates false beliefs about animals, hurts people, or is simply a scam for money?

 

Look at the animal.

Does it appear natural and relaxed, or does it appear tense or unnaturally still? Does it appear to have choice in its situation, or was it posed? Is it a domesticated animal or is it an exotic animal? Learn more about dog body language in this ACT event video and from Victoria Stillwell.

 

Look at the environment.

Is the environment appropriate, comfortable and natural for that animal? Is the environment sterile? Is there enrichment available? Learn more about enrichment in this ACT blog about enrichment and Stephanie Collingsworth's ACT video about enriching the lives of pets.

 

Who is sharing and why?

Has the video been shared by the creator, or is it by a media collector making money off of hits, views, and shares? What other videos does this page share?

 

Think critically.

Is there advice or information in the text? Always verify through a reputable source before sharing. Is there a story included, and does it make sense? Are photos original or legally reusable, or have they been stolen from another site?

 

Do you have any other tips for browsing, liking, and sharing about animals on social media?