Local shelters using social media to save pets

Thousands of adoptions come from Facebook, Twitter

Published On: May 23 2013 11:21:27 PM EDT   Updated On: May 23 2013 11:57:41 PM EDT
ORLANDO, Fla. -

We all remember the recent story of Rufus the beagle. He was scheduled to be put down, after biting a boy on the lip.

But earlier this month, he returned to his Orange County family, after a month-long court battle. His owners say social media played a big role in saving their dog's life.

Back in April, after biting four-year-old Chazz, the boy's mother turned Rufus to Animal Services, thinking he'd be adopted. But the county had another plan -- putting him down.

"I was devastated by everything that had happened," says Nikki West, Rufus' owner. "I love my dog."

That love spread to Facebook, where Nikki West started a "Save Rufus" page -- getting tens of thousands of likes, and more importantly, getting her dog back.

"I can't even express how happy I am, and so thankful to everyone that stuck by my side and supported me throughout all of this," says West.

The latest numbers show that four-million pets aren't as lucky as Rufus. They're euthanized every year, because no one wants them. That's why local shelters are using social media to find dogs and cats a home.

On its Facebook page, the SPCA of Central Florida constantly posts pictures of animals that can be yours.

In fact,, half of the SPCA's 8,000 adoptions last year came from people who surfed social media.

The Halifax Humane Society in Daytona Beach also has a big presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, where you can watch videos of animals that need a family.

Last year, about 400 pets were adopted from Halifax, thanks to those sites.

"Dogs who have just a matter of minutes to survive are able to get pulled from these shelters," says Katherine Martin, the founder of the non-profit, Lucky Lab.

Martin says the Internet is a great tool to get awareness for pets on death row.

"Social media and Facebook in general has helped us raise a lot of money for dogs we wouldn't ordinarily have the funds to be able to help," says Martin.

In some cases, the posts are urgent -- with dates and deadlines showing when a pet is slated to be put down.

Another benefit of social media is how interactive it is. If you see a dog or cat you like, you can message those local shelters directly, to learn more about that pet.