What to do and not to do when helping rescuers via social media

CatRescue 901, like many other charities, volunteer organisations and rescue groups relies on the power of Facebook to to enable us to reach a large audience quickly and effectively. Facebook brings out the best, and the worst in people and at CatRescue 901 we have seen it all.

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We are caring for Bill & Ben who are looking for a forever home.

We did not write the following blog post. The very fervent Adrienne Gonzalez penned it and published it on 7 May 2014 (we accessed it on 28/9/14). Adrienne volunteers for the St Francis Humane Association in New York and is clearly passionate about animal rescue which is reflected in her writing. We have taken the liberty of lightly editing her work to enable us to share it.

Adrienne’s original work can be found at: https://medium.com/@adrigonzo/how-not-to-help-animals-on-facebook-85f08194038

Make no mistake the more sharing on social media the more lives are saved every day!


Adrienne writes:

How NOT to Help Animals on Facebook

Alternatively, “If Your Last Name is Crossposter, I Don’t Want to Talk to You”


When I joined Facebook in 2008, I had no idea just four years later I would be shoved head first into the wild world of Facebook animal rescue (I will spare you the story now but you can catch up here). Truth told, I had no clue such a thing even existed until I found myself so deeply entrenched in it, deactivating and ripping my router out of the wall would be my only way out.

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The NYC cat who started it all, Cheddar (formerly Beautiful), queen diva of the Secret Lair and my cat soulmate.

I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet and leave out the drama, the interpersonal issues, the fact that I’ve blocked and been blocked by fellow animal rescuers over stupid nonsense that usually has nothing to do with the cats and everything to do with ego.

I’m here to tell you how NOT to rescue an animal on Facebook, after all.

I have volunteered for a Facebook page that tries to spare the cats imprisoned at the New York City shelter for over a year. It’s a thankless job but I have several furry New Yorkers freeloading here in my apartment who count on people like me to at least try to get them busted out of there.

If you’ve come across a Facebook page like ours, chances are its run by volunteers just like us. There are tons of pages just like ours all around the country, some focus only on certain shelters while others focus on certain breeds; some share animals from around the country, some share only a handful within a local area. For us, we are a small, tight-knit group — and we all have to balance full-time jobs, school, our “real life” volunteering, fostering, families, and this thing we’re supposed to have called a life. For us, this is our life.

The nightly kill list at New York City Animal Care & Control is posted every single day, nearly 365 days a year (except the few holidays the death row animals get a reprieve), and our volunteers work around the clock posting cats in need and trying to get them out. Three nights a week, I’m glued to my laptop until at least 2am waiting for a (1) to pop up in our inbox. You see, we try to match potential adopters/fosters to rescue groups, and a lot of it is chewing my nails down while looking at the pathetic faces of innocent cats sentenced to death for no reason other than they ended up at the shelter for whatever reason. A lot of them get dumped there by irresponsible owners. Some, like my foster Maryland who was the last NYC cat I saved before 2013 came to an end, are brought to the shelter after their guardians are evicted.


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Maryland, a 6 year old dilute tortie. She’s available for adoption.


Enough about that, let’s talk about the matter at hand.

Being in “Facebook rescue” as well as “IRL rescue,” I see a lot of heartbreaking crap. A LOT OF TRASH. I see the worst of the abuse cases and I see tiny little kittens killed at the shelter because no one rescued them in the four hours they were given to get out of there. In fact, I have one of those kittens in my house, too. She came into the shelter at 11am one day and had until 5pm to get out.

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Isis, dumped on a Bronx doorstep at 3 weeks old. She had a little under 6 hours to find rescue and make it out of the shelter alive.

I also see a lot of really awful human beings behaving badly on a daily basis. Not necessarily on our page, exactly, but all over Facebook. So let me tell all you idiots how not to act, alright? It’s great if you see an animal on Facebook and want to help him or her but the nonsense really has to stop.


STOP SAYING “I wish I could take her but _________”

“I wish I could take her but I live in Canada.” — are there no cats in Canada (or name any other state that isn’t NY here) you can help? GO HELP THEM. New York City isn’t the only place to find cats in need, it just happens to be well-publicized on Facebook. Nothing is stopping you from walking into your local shelter and helping an animal there. There is not a single shelter in all of America that isn’t overflowing with animals in need, try getting off your ass and going there.

“I wish I could take her but I already have 3 cats.” — good for you, I currently have, well, I’m not even going to tell you but let’s say I have too damn many by normal standards (but thankfully not so many that any of them are hurting for care, food, or attention). If you can’t foster or adopt, there are plenty of other ways to help, like with donations to rescues or, hey, why don’t you take one of my nights and stay up until 2am trying to bust just one cat out of the shelter?

Stop wishing and start doing!


STOP SAYING “Can you ship it to me?”

Yes, people actually say this. They say it a lot, actually. They treat Facebook like some kind of rescue animal catalog and assume when they see an animal they want, posting “I want her! Can you ship her to me?” is at all helpful.


Also, this isn’t an it. “It” is reserved for an iPod dock or a book. “It” is a he or she, just like you are.

Out of state adoptions are possible — I of all people know this because I adopted my first NYC cat when I lived in DC. Except I did everything the rescue asked me to do and allowed a stranger to come to my condo at 11pm to do a home visit and got in the car the following day to drive 250 miles to Brooklyn to go get her.

To answer your question, no, no one is going to ship you a live animal. Please go to FAO Schwarz and browse the stuffed animal section — or, since you’re clearly lazy, go online and order one to be shipped to you.


STOP YELLING at people who are actually trying to help.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been called a murdering bastard by someone who came to our page, saw “kill list” and automatically assumed we are the shelter.

Having directly saved as many cats as I have from that very kill list — and trust me, my numbers are small compared to some of the real heavy hitters who save hundreds or even thousands a year — there is nothing worse than being called a murdering bastard by some random, uninformed driveby on the Internet.

Yes, the situation in NYC is pretty bad. And yes the shelter is in desperate need of reform. But don’t you dare call me a murderer. As previously stated, I give countless hours a week not to mention my home and heart to these cats, the last thing I need is a bunch of lip from a do-nothing on Facebook with a bone to pick. Write the mayor, adopt one of these cats yourself, DO SOMETHING. Anything but yelling at me. I don’t need this. And the only reason I put up with it is because if I give up, I’m giving up on the cats.

There is no try, only do.

I also cannot tell you how many times someone has claimed to have “tried everything” to save a cat only for that cat to be killed. These people are generally gloryhounds who make their would be actions public but forget a major important step, like actually connecting with a rescue or filling out an application.

They talk a good game on the threads but inevitably fail to actually do much of anything at all and then when the cat is killed at the shelter, are the first to talk about how unfair it is and how hard they “tried.” No, actually you didn’t, you sat there waiting for a cat to be delivered to you because you said “I will take it!” on a Facebook thread.

STOP doing this.



I know of one particular person who not only willfully attempted to breed cats but is pretty much shunned in local rescue circles due to the substandard care her many, many animals receive.

Instead of getting help, she moved on to other high kill shelters down South who aren’t aware of what a terrible situation any cats she “saves” are about to be thrust into. Cats are probably being shipped to her as we speak because it’s better than dead, right?

No, no it isn’t. There are things worse than dying alone and unwanted in the shelter, and that’s being stuck in a filthy home with far too many animals and potentially suffering a long, drawn out march to death anyway at the hands of a hoarder.

But on Facebook, any random person who shows up on a thread and says they will take an animal is declared an angel.

Newsflash: offering to take an animal is not the same as offering that animal a loving home where they will get the medical care, nutrition, and attention they need.


STOP ASKING “Where are the rescues?!”

You know where they are? Tending to the many, many, many animals they already have. They are full. FULL TO THE MAX.

I am not even a rescue — I have fostered for 3 rescues in NYC as well as the one I volunteer for here in Richmond — and I am full. Couldn’t squeeze another cat into this house if I wanted to.

The rescues are probably out picking up more cats off the street or running cats they’ve saved from the shelter to the vet or, even worse, answering emails from idiots like you telling them they better get down to the shelter and save little Mr Muffins on the kill list tonight who looks like the cat your aunt had when you were five.

STOP IT. Unless you are offering to foster, stop bothering them. Trust me, the rescues know about the kill list. For our own sanity, a lot of us have to avoid looking because we already have too many. How many do you have?

In summation: the best way to help animals in need is to help them. Not to pick fights on the Internet or make promises you can’t keep or “offer” to take animals when you already have too many or live 5000 miles away or expect them to get shipped to you.

If you “would love to take her” but can’t because you are too far away, look in your own backyard.

If you “would love to take her” but can’t because you have too many animals already, try to find a way to help that doesn’t involve taking more animals.

Otherwise, you’re just wasting everyone’s time and certainly aren’t helping these animals. Yes, I said it. Now go forth and do something or stop bothering us.

You can see the story of Cheddar — the cat abandoned in Brooklyn by a VET with 8 others — who started it all here. And Tiffany (who now lives with a mom who waited 2 long years to find the cat she was meant to share her life with, and knew the moment she saw little Tiff that was her cat — she subsequently filled out an app, allowed a home visit and was happy to do whatever it took to get her cat home). And Storm and Tina who I rescued after Hurricane Sandy even though I wasn’t sure my Mazda3 could make it from Delaware to NYC on gas rationing (she did, just barely).

I can’t say cat rescue is easy, nor can I say I’m not jaded because Lord knows I am. But I continue to trudge on because the cats need me. Because the cats. Because of this.

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Little cross-eyed Moses, who was on the kill list in July when I was apartment sitting in Manhattan. I asked Anjellicle Cats Rescue — who I foster for — to pull him for me, he’s now home with his family because I did.

How do you say no to that face? You don’t. You tell the rescue you work with to pull him immediately and you bring him home like I did.


DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING. It isn’t rocket science.

Stop doing nothing, you aren’t helping. On behalf of all of us who do a lot, just stop.


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