by Marsha Rakestraw
We share a lot of our lives on social media. Who knew that people would want to document their cruelty to animals as well?
Especially lately, there have been numerous instances of people posting photos of animal cruelty on their (or others’) social media pages.
We humane educators and changemakers know that social media can be a powerful tool for social change; and it is increasingly becoming a tool for helping prosecute animal cruelty. But, as the Animal Legal Defense Fund outlines on their website, there are specific actions and steps that are important to take.
When we see an image that appears to show illegal animal abuse or neglect, here’s what the ALDF recommends:
1. Download the image (screenshots are often not enough) and write down all the details you can about the poster, the post itself, any comments, etc.
2. Report what you’ve found to the law enforcement agency local to “where the poster’s account originates” (or to you own agency if you don’t know the poster’s location). In the report you file, be sure to include:
- Copies of the images and account info that you collected.
- An explicit request that an officer file a formal preservation request pursuant to 18 USC § 2703(f) of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act with the host site.
- An explicit request that “the agency fully investigate the crimes depicted in the images you discovered.”
3. Show your willingness to cooperate with law enforcement, including serving as a witness, if requested.
1. Don’t ask for the image to be pulled. As ALDF says, “ … that is the worst possible first step because once the data is pulled off of the site it is (as a general rule) gone and not recoverable and cannot be used as evidence at a trial. That means the key evidence contained in the file and the ability to trace the posting back to the IP address used to upload the content is gone.”
2. Don’t comment on the post or on the poster’s account or share the posting. “This could tip them off that law enforcement is on the case, leading them to remove the image or video before police can preserve essential evidence.”
And remember that a lot of animal abuse and neglect doesn’t meet current standards for breaking the law. In those cases, we can try to change the system, by, for example, writing letters, talking with legislators, and creating petitions.
One of the most powerful choices we can make as humane educators and changemakers is to be an upstander when we see acts of cruelty and injustice. Especially since we humans can so easily fall into the role of passive bystanders, it’s vital that we model our message of compassionate action.