We hear about it all the time. We see it on the news. Pets and other domestic animals subjected to cruelty and neglect. Family pets are kept chained and suffer from exposure. Others are beaten or deprived of food, water, grooming and medical care. Trusting companion animals are left trapped inside a house or apartment or abandoned outdoors when their owners move. Puppy and kitten mills, animal hoarding, dog fighting and the like add to the list of horrors animals are subjected to every day. You want to help a pet in need, but you can’t rescue or adopt them all, and your family life and job obligations don’t leave you the time to volunteer. So you donate. You’ve done your research and learned what pet aid and animal welfare organizations make the best use of your financial contributions. But what about contributing through “digital activism”? It’s so easy to do. But you want to know if clicking to sign that online petition really helps. So PugetPets did some digging (ruff!) and found out what you need to know about this quick and simple method of pet advocacy.
As a measure of public opinion, online petitions can have far-reaching effects, informing policy-makers of interest in an issue, encouraging media coverage, building a list of interested parties, and spurring additional action. Online petition sites abound and all of them present animal welfare and pet advocacy issues that demand our attention. But signer beware! Not all online petition sites are equally effective, and unfortunately, some don’t even have advocacy as their primary purpose. PugetPets looked into several petition sites and discovered that a number of them, while not overt scams, are simply for-profit websites that exist only to sell advertising opportunities while creating an illusion that the signer is helping a cause.
Somewhere out there a pet needs help, and you want your actions, even the smallest ones, to be effective. To help you determine whether your signature on an online petition will be used to promote animal welfare or address a specific need, here are four questions you should always ask:
“The strongest social change organizations will push the most viable and potentially viral petitions forward, strengthening language, providing strategic advice and connecting petitioners with the media, benefiting both the host organization and the causes,” says Gail Ablow in her article on digital activism for Bill Moyers’ website. As pet people, we feel a deep sense of responsibility toward the animals who rely on us to care for and protect them. Aiding pet advocacy causes is one way we can help, and online petitions can be a useful tool. But some online petition sites will try to take advantage of the pet lover’s better nature by selling a feel-good moment in exchange for a signature, while no suffering pet ever sees the benefit. Don’t be fooled by this digital snake oil. Instead, keep the “pet” in petition and spend a few minutes checking out the petition you are thinking of signing. You’ll be sure that your virtual signature, though a small step, counts toward helping a pet in need.