With people using sites like Facebook and Twitter now more than ever, dog rescues can share photos and videos of animals in their care, ultimately leading to adoption or to the pet being reunited with its original owner.
The ASPCA estimates that around 3 to 5 million dogs are abandoned in the United States annually.
“Of those dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted and 31% are euthanized,” said Richer Dumais, of online dog database PetYourDog.com.
Some dogs that find themselves in shelters may be returned to their owners, but the majority will be left in the care of non-profit animal rescues waiting for someone to adopt them. Financial issues and lack of basic knowledge on how to care for specific breeds are some of the main reasons dogs find themselves abandoned.
“The most abandoned dogs are the Jack Russell Terrier, the Labrador and the German Shepherd,” Dumais said. “[The Jack Russell] is very energetic, needs a lot of exercise and has a character of its own. The Labrador and the German Shepherd are both very popular, which unfortunately means more will end up on the street,” he explained.
Choosing to adopt a homeless dog from a shelter can cost very little compared to purchasing one from a breeder. Most shelter dogs also tend to be up to date on their shots as well as having been neutered already.
The increasing amount of dumped dogs has animal shelters stretching their resources to the limit, but the internet is coming to the rescue.
Emma Hallam-Nicholls, a flight attendant from Allentown, is one of the thousands of people who have gone online to adopt a dog.
“We have five dogs, and all of them are rescues,” she said. “Without social media, we simply would not have adopted them as we found them all through Facebook. Ben, our 2-year-old border collie came from North Carolina and another, Charlie, came from Texas,” Hallam-Nicholls added.
Shelters are often forced to euthanize stray dogs that are not adopted or claimed after a long period of time, but social media sharing means many more dogs are saved and found homes through eleventh hour Facebook and Twitter campaigns.
The extra publicity also results in more donations for rescue organizations.
Alicia Kowal is an animal rescue advocate based in California who found her German Shepherd, Harper, through the internet.
“I believe social media is having a great impact on adoptions because it gets the information out quicker,” Kowal said. “We check our social media accounts before email or even surfing the web. It also educates people who are unaware of the amount of dogs that need homes,” she added.
While there are many happy endings to the dog adoption tale, Dumais reminds potential owners to be mindful when choosing to get a pet.
“If everybody who decided to get a dog made a responsible choice, maybe the relationship [between dog and owner] would last longer,” he said. “To prevent dog abandonment, we have a special tool on our website called the Dog Matching System (DMS)”, Dumais explained.
The DMS tool walks aspired dog owners through a series of questions, from their preferred size of dog to their shedding and barking tolerance in order to match them with the best breed for their needs.
“After choosing the appropriate dog that fits their lifestyle, the rest depends on the owner to take good care of their dog,” Dumais added.
Some animal shelters in the Lehigh Valley include The Center for Animal Health and Welfare in Easton and The Lehigh County Humane Society in Allentown.