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Friday, April 18 2014 3:34 PM EDT2014-04-18 19:34:46 GMT
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(WFLX) - Three to four million dogs and cats are put to sleep in animal shelters across the United States each year. But imagine if you could save some or even adopt one with just a couple clicks of a mouse?
We found the number of shelters and rescue groups using social media to spread the word about pets in need is growing, and the number of people responding is astonishing.
For example, a tail wagging yellow lab, named Splash, was once on death row in an animal shelter.
With the clock ticking, the rescue group Lucky Lab posted his picture on its Facebook site in hopes of finding him a home ASAP!
One thousand miles away, Peter Christmas and Janet Belsky fell in love with the lab. "He was an older dog that's hard to adopt, and we kind of figured that he was not going to have a very good shot at getting adopted," said Belsky.
Janet soon typed this response on the Facebook post: "With a name like Splash, he belongs here on the lake. We would love to take him."
He's not the only one.
Lucky Lab rescue's founder, Katherine Martin, says social media helped save these dogs and hundreds of others.
Dogs who have just a matter of minutes to survive are able to get pulled from these shelters," said Katherine Martin of Lucky Lab Rescue.
These life-saving campaigns aren't only going to the dogs. We found the number of shelters and pet rescue groups using social media to spread the word is exploding;saving cats, horses, even cows, piglets, guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets. "We took a look at a specific group on Twitter called the "Animal League", and we could track it and the number of followers they had on Twitter increased 30 percent just in the last three months," said Patrick O'Malley, a social media expert.
Sometimes the posts are dire, with actual expiration dates listing the date and time a pet has to be adopted by or the animal will be euthanized.
Social media is also helping save pets with special needs, like a three-legged dog, named Cookie.
Donations for her medical care came pouring in, and someone living hundreds of miles away from the pooch saw a post and adopted cookie moments before she was going to be put to sleep. "Social media and Facebook in general has helped us raise a lot of money for dogs we ordinarily wouldn't have the funds to help," said Martin of Lucky Lab Rescue.
Rescue groups are using Facebook and Twitter to arrange transport for adopted pets to their forever homes by organizing transportation through volunteers or donated frequent flier miles.
As for Splash, his happy tail took him across country to his happily ever after with Janet and Peter. "I'm so glad we did this. We just love this dog," said Janet.
"The dogs tend to know they've been rescued, also. They know they've been saved and they're forever grateful to you," said one pet owner.
The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals tells us they urge shelters to advertise pets on social media before putting them to sleep.