Beware what you share! “Cute” videos are often cruel.

Guest Blogger
Jill Bielawski
Editor and Social Media Director, Animal Help Now

Cute animal videos have long been an internet sensation, and many sites have profited from their popularity. But much of that “cute” footage actually features animals who are being harassed, abused or otherwise placed in harm’s way. We at Animal Help Now sometimes see our friends and colleagues sharing videos and photos of animals who, upon close inspection or investigation, turn out to be in distress.

We all know that a wild animal whose head is stuck in a discarded yogurt container is no laughing matter. But what about a dog dressed up like a pirate or a bear playing with human toys in someone’s yard?

Before liking or sharing an animal photo or video, it’s important to view it critically and ask yourself whether the animals are part of the fun or in fact apart from it.

Your red flags should be raised, for instance, when you see:

  • Baby animals in a human’s environment. More than likely, baby animals are the result of humans breeding them. With few exceptions, it’s detrimental for humans to breed other species.
  • Wild animals in human,  nonrehabilitative environments or recorded in a manner that by all accounts would not be possible by a caring human who respects the animals’ wildness. Some wild animals cannot for various reasons live in the wild, and some thrive in human company. We need to do our best to determine whether or not what we’re viewing is OK.

There’s an extensive history of animal abuse in film and video – see this short piece by one of our co-founders, written 26 years ago! Since then we learned that The American Humane Association’s definition of “harmed” is different from ours. We are so relieved that CGI is now replacing live animals in many productions.

A loris being tortured. Click image for associated ABC News feature, including expert commentary on "cute" animal videos.
A loris being tortured. Click image for short ABC News feature on “cute” animal videos, including expert opinions.

Nearly two million people have viewed a bear video shared on the Animal Kingdom & Wild Life Facebook and Instagram pages (screen cap shown in this blog’s featured image). But in this and another video of the bear, it appears she is performing and may lack teeth. It’s common practice to remove the teeth and claws of wild and potentially dangerous animals to more easily manage them and force them to perform. Although thousands of people have shared this video for its “cute” factor, we and others question why the bear appears to lack teeth and consider her likely to be leading an unhappy and unhealthy life.

Examining rabbit videos alone, a couple that have gone viral in recent years include a rabbit being bathed (rabbits can become hypothermic when submerged in water) and a baby rabbit named “Wheelz” who was left in freezing temperatures, injured and then attached to a handmade skateboard by farmers raising rabbits for slaughter.

Yet another shows hundreds of domestic rabbits chasing a woman who bears food on Japan’s “Rabbit Island.” The viral video incited tourists to flock to the deserted, barren island to feed the hungry bunnies, causing a population boom that harmed both the rabbits and the ecosystem. The video also promotes the myth that domestic rabbits can thrive in the wild, teaching people that it’s OK to dump rabbits outdoors – where they quickly fall prey to predators, illness and the elements.

It can be difficult to discern the difference between cute and cruel, but any person who loves and/or respects animals knows they are never the same.

The next time you see a video featuring an animal, consider the source and whether it truly advocates for animals. While the Dodo and One Green Planet are sensitive to this issue, sites such as Bored Panda and Buzzfeed promote videos depicting cruelty to animals even after abuse has been shown.

Try also to discern the circumstances. Abuse isn’t always obvious. If anything looks suspicious, it’s wiser to play it safe and not share it. Sharing “cute” videos of animals in harmful situations rewards and teaches irresponsible behavior. Instead, leave a comment asking probing questions, or if you’re certain the video depicts abuse, call it out wherever it occurs and ask that it be taken down.

For information on what to do if you see or suspect cruelty to animals, visit Animal Help Now’s Resources page.

We Did It!

Friends,

A year ago, as we moved into December, Animal Help Now asked for your support for the year ahead, specifically toward our goal of doubling the number of people who use our app.

You delivered, and so did we.

Before this year is out, more than twice the number of people will have used Animal Help Now than did in 2015.

Historical usage

It’s not possible to determine the actual number of emergency uses of our program, but based on our updated analysis, we put that number, for year-to-date 2016, between 1,114 and 20,898. Our analysts are working to tighten up that range.

As to the doubling in usage: In 2015, our platforms hosted 46,400 sessions. So far in 2016, our platforms have hosted 94,847.

Indeed, the number of sessions on Animal Help Now’s four platforms – desktop web, mobile web, iPhone app, Android app – has increased exponentially each year since we launched the program in 2011.

Cedar Hill, TX.
Rue Ann used Animal Help Now to reunite this lost pup with his guardians. Cedar Hill, TX. August 2016.

Connecting thousands of people who need help with an animal emergency with people, businesses, organizations and agencies that can provide that help? Not bad for an organization with total annual expenses of about $100,000.

Can we double our usage again in 2017? We intend to, but we can do so only with your support.

Can we count on you again this year? If you haven’t contributed before, will you please consider adding Animal Help Now to your list of favorite nonprofits?

Animal Help Now is arguably one of the most effective, cost-effective, and innovative animal advocacy organizations in the country.

In just the past few days, Animal Help Now has successfully assisted with:

  • A House Finch trapped in a chimney (Colorado)
  • An electrocuted Great Horned Owl on the ground in a residential neighborhood and unable to fly (Georgia)
  • A domesticated raccoon cruelly released into the wild to fend for herself (Illinois)

Your donation:

  • Helps maintain and improve Animal Help Now’s lifesaving program.
  • Raises awareness of the availability of Animal Help Now.
  • Improves the quality of life for people who care about animals and who are willing to help those in crisis.

Donate text box

With your support, Animal Help Now also raises awareness about the threats leading to animal emergencies and empowers the public to help mitigate those threats.

If you donate through our page on ColoradoGives.org, all processing fees will be waived and a small portion of your gift will be matched through the Colorado Gives program.

This is on top of the leverage your gifts already get from the combination of Animal Help Now’s amazing team of volunteers and the organization’s low overhead.

Please make your tax-deductible donation right now!

Any US Wildlife Emergency – from Anywhere: The Long Arm of Animal Help Now

The Dallas/Fort Worth Wildlife Coalition Hotline receives dozens of calls every day. While the hotline volunteers can handle most of those, they do receive numerous inquiries from outside their service area. After all, people find the hotline through web searches, and so the calls do come in from Portland to Portland, and points in between.

Sometimes the hotline staff can dispense with such out-of-area calls quickly: “Because the fawn’s mother is close by, and the fawn is not in obvious danger, you should leave the fawn alone.”

Other out-of-area calls require more work. And when a hotline staffer needs to find a rehabber in another area – say Portland, Maine – he or she is trained to use Animal Help Now to do just that.

It’s easy. The staffer simply opens AnimalHelpNow.org, enters the caller’s address in the You Are Here box, and clicks Wildlife Issue.

YouAreHere

Of course, if the caller has web access, the hotline staffer can simply give the caller the Animal Help Now web address.

As with other hotlines and many rehabilitation centers, the DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline provides the Animal Help Now URL on its outgoing message.

Pretty nifty. Especially when compared with the alternative.

Now we just need to get this tool into as many hands as possible.

Please help us spread the word. Share this post with your neighborhood vet clinic, any municipal or county officials you know, and of course with your area wildlife rehabilitation centers. We’ll take care of the rest.

Animal Help Now’s referral functionality is covered in its webinar for animal emergency professionals. The next scheduled webinar is December 7, 2015. Click here for more information. To view previously recorded webinars, visit our YouTube channel.

The Cost of Effective Advocacy (It’s Pretty Good News)

I’ve been involved in more than a few exchanges on this topic – especially of late, as there’s a movement afoot to quantify and normalize the effectiveness of advocacy efforts so that a person can say “this organization impacts this many lives for this much money.”

I have serious concerns about the methodology and the language of this endeavor, as well as the virtually impossible task of quantifying intangibles such as how much an organization might raise public awareness on an issue or inspire individuals to act. And I’m mortified by the current endgame, the declaration that “all donor dollars should go to this organization because it impacts the most lives” – I do applaud the effort, for at the very least if done right it will provide another way to measure the effectiveness of advocacy organizations.

I’ll probably go deeper into this effort another time. For now, I bring up the cost of effective advocacy because it’s front and center for Animal Help Now. We’re at the end of our first online fundraiser of the year. We’ve secured the promised matching funds, and we have less than $2000 to go before midnight, Weds, 9/30. We need your support.screen568x568

Effective Advocacy
Animal Help Now is the world’s first reliable nationwide service a person can use to get help with a wildlife emergency. As many of you know, in Colorado and Texas AHNow also provides help for any domestic animal emergency.

The program is being used about 10,000 times a year. That’s a lot of lives saved and suffering reduced.

The Cost
We keep it low. Of our 30 staff members, 24 are
volunteers, together contributing on average more than 200 hours per month. Corporate partners provide services such as legal counsel and accounting expertise free of charge. Everyone works from home or at a coffee shop, so we have very little overhead.

But the cost includes paying our staff a living wage. It ensures we keep our data current, innovate with our software and get the word out on our lifesaving program.

expense pie chart

Animal Help Now is built for expansion. Canada in 2016? Why not? Domestic animal emergency functionality across the United States? Why not?!

Animal Help Now was created educate, inspire and empower. Of course building windows can be more bird friendly. Of course roads can be safer for wildlife.

Of course we can create a world in which we can act upon our compassion at all times. Imagine not being the only person to stop to help an injured animal by the side of the road. We won’t be alone because people will know what to do and will be empowered to do it.