Animal Rescue Groups Caught in Facebook’s Net

Robeson County Animal Shelter

Animal rescue groups like “Every Dog Deserves a Home” have set up Facebook pages in order to send out pictures and information on stray animals that are in dire need of adoption. Through daily posts on the massive social network, many rescue animals that would have otherwise been put to sleep have found new homes. Connecticut’s City of Hartford Animal Shelter, one of the state’s largest kill shelters, hasn’t had to put a dog down in months thanks to Facebook.

“All the dogs who enter this shelter get ten days to find a home and if they do not, they are put to sleep,” said Megan Shea, administrator of the City of Hartford Animal Shelter. Now these victories could be halted as animal rescue groups and shelters are logging in to discover that their accounts have been suspended from Facebook for “spamming and irrelevant content.” Under the suspension, they are unable to post, comment or share for 15 days and also face the threat of being shut down permanently.

“Anyone who is familiar with the practice of sharing information about animals on kill lists knows that widespread posting makes a difference,” said Theodora DeBarbieri, an animal issues writer for Examiner.com, adding that it “often ends with the happy news of a life saved.” The animal rescue community is fighting back with the “Don’t Suspend our Animal Rescue Accounts” page which is inching up to 12,000 “likes.” The page has abundant comments from supporters asking Facebook to reconsider their suspensions on “animal rescuers, not spammers.”

One commenter Terri Hall noted that “It’s a sad state when people can log on and complain about their day at work, but we cannot help the helpless. I’m disgusted with the suspensions.”

But the “Don’t Suspend our Animal Rescue Accounts” page is also dotted with occasional comments from Facebook users on the opposite spectrum who sympathize with those who have reported the animal rescue groups as “spam.” “It’s not that I hate the intentions. I love the fact that people are trying to help animals. But there is such a thing as too much. It’s just really annoying when every other post in my news feed is these guys wanting me to send money here or there, or to give a home to a cat or dog that’s four states away. Also, it tears my heart out that I can’t do anything for these animals, no matter how many times you post,” wrote Adam Rogers.

It should be noted, however, that Facebook users overwhelmed with posts from active animal rescue groups they have “liked” have long had the ability to “hide” these posts from their news feed. The content a Facebook user sees on their news feed is entirely up to them: “Hiding” a friend or group’s posts allows the user to read updates at their own discretion rather than by force, and it’s completely confidential. A simple mouse click can also “unlike” a group or remove a friend.

Jessie Davis left a comment to show her support to the animal rescue groups she believes shouldn’t be punished just for doing what they feel is important. “I have friends who send me bunches of lame emails every day and yes I find it annoying, but it matters to them and I certainly don’t think they should be locked out of their e-mail because of it!”

This past weekend, Facebook sent notes of apology and vowed to change the automated anti-spam system they claim to be responsible for blocking animal rescue group pages. Though many remain in what they call “Facebook jail”, there is now hope for an early release. “Facebook is not – and has never been – in the business of disabling accounts or removing content simply because people are discussing controversial topics,” Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said in a statement to The Associated Press. “On the contrary, we want Facebook to be a place where people can openly express their views and opinions, even if others don’t agree with them.”

Animal Rights National Conference 2018