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Use of social media to promote animal adoptions causes problems for Norman shelter

Shelters in Oklahoma City area increasingly use social media to promote animal adoptions, but officials at the Norman shelter say some postings can be problematic.
by Jane Glenn Cannon Modified: July 30, 2014 at 11:00 am •  Published: July 29, 2014


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A mother and pup share a compartment at Norman Animal Welfare at 3428 S Jenkins Ave. The welfare center currently is under construction, causing conditions to be a little cramped and chaotic, officials say. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
A mother and pup share a compartment at Norman Animal Welfare at 3428 S Jenkins Ave. The welfare center currently is under construction, causing conditions to be a little cramped and chaotic, officials say. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Volunteers at metro-area animal shelters often photograph adoptable dogs and cats and post their pictures on Facebook or use other social media outlets to promote adoptions.

Networking through social media also can help in reuniting lost pets with their owners, they say.

But officials at Norman Animal Welfare say such postings can be problematic.

Supervisor John Bowman said personal information on a tag on a recent posting led to numerous phone calls to a family that was dealing with the death of a loved one, who also happened to be the animal’s owner. The calls were disturbing and inappropriate, he said.

That incident led to a stipulation at the Norman shelter that any photographs taken by a volunteer on duty automatically became the property of the shelter.

“We’re not saying volunteers can’t take photographs, but that they should do so under the direction of staff,” Assistant City Attorney Rick Knighton said.

Volunteer Jeff Bloomgarden said the policy was discriminatory and had a chilling effect on efforts to get animals adopted.

“The public can come in and take photos and post them on their Facebook pages, but we can’t. We are being penalized for volunteering. There’s a false distinction being made here between citizens and volunteers,” he said.

Oklahoma City animal shelter spokesman Zach Nash said the shelter embraces the use of social media. It has its own Facebook page and website, and both volunteers and staff use Twitter, as well, to promote animals for adoption.

“We use social media constantly, heavily, every day,” said Acting Superintendent Jon Gary. “We even have private Facebook pages to communicate with our foster families.”

Social media is used to advertise adoption events, engage with citizens and post photos of adoptable animals, he said.

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by Jane Glenn Cannon
Senior Reporter
A native of Oklahoma, Jane Glenn Cannon is an award-winning reporter who has covered everything from crime, courts and government to entertainment and features. She wrote a popular personal column for many years. She is a former associate writer...
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