From Homeless to Home Bound: How Social Media Helps Shelter Animals Find Their Humans

By: Amanda Castillo | @_mandymichelle

The ASPCA uses their Twitter to inform their followers of common pet questions via @ASPCA

For humans, social media usage is hardly a life changing experience. However, for animal shelters or rescue organizations who use social media to showcase stray animals and bring out their personalities and share their stories, this can absolutely be life changing – especially if the animals don’t find themselves in a no kill shelter where their lives literally depend on whether or not they are adopted within a certain amount of time.

The Social Media Difference

The internet loves pictures of cute animals. To exploit that in a way that will lead to more adoptions is simply genius. In the recent years, social media has drastically helped increased pet adoption rates. Most humane societies, pet food companies, and shelters have learned to use social media to effectively reach potential new pet owners for homeless animals. This is great for a few reasons:

1) Social media is free. This is a big plus in the world of non-profit organizations, shelters, and animal rescue groups who simply don’t have the funds to advertise in any other way. At the cost of nothing but someone’s time and effort to post things regularly, the price of social media use is right. Even if an engagement doesn’t lead to adoption, you can ask your followers to help in the form of donations of food or supplies to keep the shelter running.

2) It allows for an animal’s personality to shine through. A picture or video of a happy animal is much more appealing than a picture of sad and scared looking animals in cages because it allows people to see how that pet could fit into their lives. “We do find that keeping the message positive as opposed to the sad stories gets pets adopted.” Focusing on the positive aspects of an animal can make a big difference in perception and lead to adoption rather than a lengthy shelter stay.

3) An added bonus to the reach of social media is the chance to reach far-flung rescue groups. Social media is a great way to connect with rescue groups across the nation. For example, if you are a local shelter and the police breaks up an illegal dog fighting ring and you find yourself with about ten new pit bulls who have been neglected, abused, and trained to be aggressive adoption might not be the best option until they can learn to trust and love people again. If your shelter does not have the resources or money to take care of vet bills and rehabilitation, then a pit bull rescue group could be the best way of ensuring those dogs get the care and love they need and then eventually a new home.

Dallas Pets Alive!.png
Screenshot of Dallas Pets Alive! A local rescue group with a great website, including a ton of personality, donation suggestions, and a list of where you can find them on social media.

Tips for Social Media

As per the Humane Society, here are a few guidelines that will help take your social media to the next level and help find more pets homes:

  • Include your organization name, number, address, hours, and a link to your website if you have one, if not include adoption policies or other things people will need to know before adopting or fostering a pet.
  • Make sure the above information is accurate and is updated if any changes are made.
  • In each post about an animal up for adoption include a photo or video (a happy, shareable one), the animal’s name or ID (whichever is used by your organization so you can easily identify the animal being requested), gender, age, and a short story about some of the positive characteristics the animal has.
  • Target your posts using the location feature to ensure you are reaching the right audience.
  • Keep updating pets’ current status (available for adoption, adopted, taken in by a rescue group, etc.)
  • Update followers on pets that have already been featured with short updates. (Took Oreo for a walk today, he loves stopping to smell the roses! Fluffy goes crazy for squeaky toys!)
  • Share happy endings. If a pet has found their new home share a simple heartwarming update to keep others invested in your group and encourage more engagements.

It’s a beautiful day to save lives, everyone.


ABC. N.d. “Grey’s Anatomy | It’s a Beautiful Day to Save Lives.” ABC. Retrieved February 26, 2017 (
Bogle, Ariel. 2016. “How Social Media Helps Bring Shelter Animals Out of the Shadows.” Mashable. Retrieved February 25, 2017 (
Clark, Britt. 2014. “Shelters Use Social Media Strategy to Find Homes for Pets.” Retrieved February 23, 2017 (
Gibson, Robin. 2014. “Social Media Helps Animal Shelters Expand Reach.” The Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved February 24, 2017 (
xoxohz. 2015. “Social Media Increasing Pet Adoption Rates.” ISYS6621: Social Media and Digital Business. Retrieved February 24, 2017 (


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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism