Animal Welfare, Dogs, Pet Adoption, Pet Care, Pets, Worldwide

Are you barking up.. the wrong tree?

Amazon telephone visuals

Photo Credit: Moose Photos

Are you barking up the wrong tree? Pet abandonment was an an epidemic long before Covid-19 and now fuelled by irrational fears the number of abandoned animals have sky rocketed.
Digital reams and diatribes admonishing people about the horrors of pet abandonment fall on deaf ears. It got us thinking, are we barking up the wrong tree? If social media and its supposed magical powers worked, we’d see a decrease in the incidence of abandoned pets. However, we’re experiencing the opposite.

The animal rescue community globally has become the proverbial ‘dog chasing its tail.’ They bark at each other, often opinionated, attack a potential adopter, or first time pet owner instead of lending a helping hand.
The cause of this is exhaustion- it is mentally, emotionally and physically draining to work or volunteer in rescue. Ant or elephant, once you realise you are involved in the welfare of an animal- a piece of you is committed fastidiously to see it to its logical conclusion.

Shaming people into good behaviour is not a solution. If shaming people worked there would not be a dishonest politician alive! Education and honest direct dialogue, not platitudes better than shaming. So lets start at the very beginning.
“Animals exist for your entertainment or food” it is hard to believe but there exist parents in the ‘age of google’ who continue to spout this drivel to their children, through word and action.
Facebook is an organically growing magazine of information. It is a real time demonstration of ‘barking up the wrong tree’. It is common knowledge algorithms study you and ‘push’ toward you information based on your online behaviour. Facebook groups are effective tools, but also mean you are addressing a jury of your peers. You’re not reaching a fresh audience.

So, it stands to reason, When you write reams about the evils of breeding, especially back yard breeders, you are addressing a jury of your peers. These are essential activities, but like a dog chasing its tail, it is harder to achieve your goal.

Confirmation bias at its best, your message is vital, cleverly and clearly articulated but you’re talking to your peers. Talk and think outside the box. All of us in the box are the wrong people. Use us as a support system, as a sounding board and as a space to vent. Then take your message to the world.
Photo Credit :Hoy
Are you ‘barking up the wrong tree’? Are we all? Because a rant on social media does not help prevent the next abandonment. It is time actively seek out the next collection of open minds- children.
Easy information has made us lazy. The more access we have the less we use it. SO, it is in our causes best interest to collate and disseminate information in small digestible bundles.
black and white dog
Photo Credit Gilberto Reyes

Grand old lady best demonstrates, ‘barking up the wrong tree’. She was lucky to be rescued by a kind soul. Rightfully, they let the abandoner know she was not disposable and someone will treat her with respect and dignity for the rest of her days. But the audience were fellow rescuers.

Labrador retriever
This grand old lady was rescued from the side of a road. She was one of the lucky few who are found and cared for within a short period of being abandoned. Bringing these stories to light is important. But to whom do we speak when posting in a group or forum dedicated to animals. ?
When barking at people, try the soft bark approach. Be factual, precise and to the point.
This is especially important to remember when social media is the medium through which we communicate. Are we barking at the wrong people? Your audience not only has prior knowledge and experience, but is also so close to your circle, that “sharing” another vital social media function, is holding up a mirror for them to see themselves.

Getting back to the smorgasbord of dogs and cats we’ve created at the click of a button for breeders. Especially in the financial downturn brought on by the pandemic, it is a temptation to desperate people to earn a relatively easy living. Peril lurks around the corner, your average back yard breeder may now masquerade as a pet influencer.

A quick guide to the audience to look out for and how to address each one
1. The Chameleon adopter/ buyer
2. The fleeting fosterer
3. I Love dogs/cats
4. I want a puppy

chameleon not barking up a tree

The Chameleon adopter/ buyer
Conversations with said chameleon go as such
Chameleon, “I want to buy XYZ dog”
Patiently explain why adopting a dog is socially responsible.
Chameleon, “Ok, where can I adopt a free dog ”
Mind you, its still breed specific.

Photo Credit: Yehan Ashoka

The Fleeting Fosterer
Fleeting fosterers are self professed ‘dog lover’ who do not have the time to have a ‘full time dog’. Well intentioned but be cautious, young impressionable puppies in the hands of inexperienced foster families are an abandonment waiting to happen.

I love dogs
The dog community is elated that you love dogs, but love of an animal and working for an with animals are world’s apart. Your reach is as important as your message. Reach out to the “I love Dogs’ brigade. Well meaning, enthusiastic, but maybe harmful to the goal.

I want a puppy
Possibly the most annoying four words in the English language! Who doesn’t want a puppy?! Unless you are devoid of all senses. Justify these statements with why you want a puppy. And if you’re looking for something cute and furry- the toy stores are overflowing with cute furry creatures.

When selling a purely fairy tale version of adoption as a “happily ever after” event, you do a disservice to the adoptive family and dog. A dog is hard work and a puppy is harder work! Dogs are kids who never grow up– tell the adoptive family they have invested the next decade of their lives to the dog. Tell the family its an investment of work, expenses and time. What is their return? The best investment they will ever make.

Fun Fact: “The Rover study found that 65 percent of dog owners take more photos of their dog than of their friends or significant other.”

Give them facts not fiction. The most profound impact you can have on the life of an animal is to be honest with a potential adopter.

Widen your scope, and educate, this is probably the best time to use social media to target the young and impressionable for a good cause. A cause that will enable them to learn respect, commitment and serve them through adulthood to become productive members of society.

Are we barking up the wrong tree? Depends on how we bark at people. At the end of the day we’re all barking for the same cause. Happy healthy dogs, in loving permanent homes. Let’s bark less at each other and more into the open minds of children- before the adult in the room gets to them!


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