In 2002, a staggering 74 percent of animals unlucky enough to find themselves in a city shelter were euthanized. But as of last year, the rate was only 33 percent.
Although the amount of stray, abused and surrendered animals remains high (more than 41,000 animals entered Animal Care & Control last year), what is the reason for this phenomenal 41 percent drop in deaths?
You can thank the Internet.
Sites like Pet Finder and Pet Tango — searchable databases of adoptable pets —have revolutionized pet adoption the same way Match.com has changed the way people date.
Gone are the guilt-ridden days of visiting an overwhelmed city shelter to pick out a dog or cat from a line-up of hundreds of desperate, unfamiliar animals. Now you can see pictures, learn about their history and temperament and even watch videos of prospective dogs and cats from the comfort of your own home.
“I can say a dog doesn’t have issues until I’m blue in the face, but people are still skeptical,” says Siobhan Healy, coordinator of Animal Care and APO oversight for the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. “But I post a video of the dog playing nicely with another dog, and that dog is adopted 10 times faster. “
Healy says the power of Twitter and Facebook have also helped drum up interest, especially for their various adoption events. “Many times, I meet people who I wouldn’t otherwise because they saw a friend post a photo of an adoptable dog or cat on Facebook and it piqued their interest enough to come meet them.
Can the Internet save Angel?
Last Saturday, writer Brent Cox found a scared, beaten and bleeding pit bull puppy wandering in traffic in Ditmas Avenue. After being turned away from two no-kill shelters, Cox took to posting about “Mystery Dog” on his blog, www.titivil.tumblr.com. With the aid of Twitter, the blog circulated and Cox estimated he received around “Fifteen e-mails of people who were interested in helping him.“ Noting that Mystery Dog was most likely “bait” for a dog-fighting concern, Cox said, “He's a little bit anxious, like he’s never seen the world before but has exhibited no aggression.”
Mystery Dog is currently residing at Earth Angels, a no-kill shelter located in the Bronx, who have renamed him Angel. But as Cox posted on his blog: “I am not satisfied with this outcome. If anyone, you, your friends, your wealthy relatives (best!) is at all interested in this most awesome dog whom I already miss like air, get at me.”
Interested in helping Angel? Go to www.earthangelsnyc.org. Or maybe even post this on Facebook? You never know.
Follow Dorothy Robinson on Twitter at @DorothyatMetro.