By Guest Columnist Ron Perez
For Capital Region Independent Media
In the animal sheltering world, we maintain a love/hate relationship with social media.
On one hand, we’re able to communicate with thousands of people with one click. Often this can benefit our organization by promoting adoptions, making a special plea for help, alerting the public to a lost/found pet, etc.
On the other hand, social media has occasionally proven to be extremely harmful for animal shelters when people post untruthful information about animal cruelty situations.
Sadly, some people now use social media to convey disingenuous information, aimed at an unwitting public who is attempting to help an animal in need. Most people posting misinformation on social media elect to be anonymous; thus, in some cases, those who have an “axe to grind” or a hidden agenda may use this method to file false or misleading animal cruelty complaints with no repercussions.
For shelters, this means responding to excess bogus complaints, which keeps us from investigating legitimate complaints in a timely manner when animals may truly need our help.
This social media method of falsely accusing people of cruelty has now become a venue for extremist individuals, groups and organizations to use cyberbullying to achieve actions that serve their overzealous beliefs.
These extremists begin a social media campaign against an individual when they disagree with their animal management, even if they’re not breaking any animal cruelty laws. They frequently continue by posting the pet owner’s name and home address, and encouraging people to harass them into the bully’s own version of compliance, or manipulating shelters into seizing these animals. This can cause a great deal of grief to a pet owner.
CGHS/SPCA adheres to and properly enforces all animal cruelty laws of NYS Agriculture and Markets Law.
When reading or viewing media – social or otherwise – carefully investigate all the allegations and facts to determine the truth before jumping on board with a crowd mentality. Often these extreme groups use “shock and awe” methods (including Photoshopped pictures or blatantly false facts) to move hearts, raise funds and further their misguided agendas.
I personally experienced this some years ago when I attended what I thought was an animal cruelty training seminar. Unaware of the actual purpose of the meeting, I brought staff members for training purposes. One of the presenters was even a retired law enforcement official, so I felt this event would provide insight and assistance in investigating animal cruelty situations.
I was wrong. This day-long training seminar began by stating that New York cruelty laws were a joke, that they’re not nearly strong enough and, as investigators, one must be vigilant to remove animals from people. As the morning went on, the training devolved into a rant about meat or dairy products being served in public schools, horrors of horse racing, etc. None of this was relevant to investigators improving their skills. When we broke for lunch, I assembled my team and left the program greatly disappointed, noticing how other law enforcement elected to do the same.
Today, groups like this one use the internet to do their dirty work and take money from unknowing, yet caring people. As always, I encourage animal lovers to support their local animal shelter. These are the organizations that are actually in the trenches, caring for the community’s animals.
Many national-oriented groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have NO shelters, but they will certainly advertise and take contributions from people. They rarely, if ever, grant any of these funds back to a local shelter, since their primary goal is lobbying.