Found Through Facebook: Using Social Media to Recover Lost Pets After Disasters

Online Obstacles

Though social media can reach wider audiences more efficiently than traditional communication methods, it also poses certain challenges. For instance, Weatherall notes that people often post irrelevant information or images to the McClain County Animal Response Team Facebook page. For that reason, she says, it is important to establish rules of conduct on such sites so that users can easily identify missing pets.

“We have to post some rules of what we can and cannot post. Sometimes followers have to go through hundreds of pictures of nonsense before being able to see the important ones,” she says.

Weatherall says she is also looking into other social media outlets, such as Tumblr — a service that allows users to post multimedia content to a blog — to help locate lost pets in her community.

“Social media enables people’s friends to help them with locating their pets.” Weatherall says. Having a group of friends to spread out and check different locations is more effective than searching alone.

Home Again

There are some specific steps you can take to ensure your pet gets home safely if he should become lost in a disaster.

  • Have your pet microchipped and keep an up-to-date identification tag on your pet’s collar.
  • If possible, get out on foot as soon as possible after the disaster to canvass the neighborhood.
  • Notify local animal shelters and any temporary shelters in the area about your missing pet.

If you decide to enlist the help of Facebook or another social media platform in finding your lost pet, be sure to post all the same details you would include on a lost and found poster: a recent photo of your pet, his name, age and breed, a description of any distinctive colorings or markings and any health issues he might have. Include your contact infornation, and if the disaster in question covers a wide area — multiple neighborhoods or different towns, as was the case in yesterday's tornadoes in Arkansas — provide your location in order to help possible rescuers look in the right areas.
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