How To Tell If You’re An Armchair “Rescuer”

Kevin Roberts
by Kevin Roberts

There are countless ways to help animals in need, but sometimes even the best of intentions can have negative impacts – especially if you’re a social media armchair rescuer.

Social media has allowed rescues to connect with the world like never before. Overcrowded and overwhelmed shelters post pleas for help, rescues seek foster homes so they can bring more animals into care, and share profiles of pets whose time is about to run out. Too often, the world of animal rescue is a race against the clock.

The amount of animals needing homes can be overwhelming, and because social media constantly updates you to these statuses, you may feel the need to do something… anything, in fact. Do you find yourself sympathetically posting things like: “I wish I could, but…”, “If only they were closer…”, “Sending thoughts and prayers!”, “SOMEONE SAVE HIM” and other comments? If this sounds like you, please step away from the keyboard!

Related: Is Your Animal Rescue Social Media Savvy?

What!?! Why? Social Media is a wonderful way to show your support, right? By posting these comments you might feel you are helping out, showing solidarity, and supporting an animal who is in need. Well, here’s the trouble – front-line rescue workers also see your comments. They use social media to coordinate rescues of animals who desperately need it.

Now, just imagine the time it takes to go through hundreds of comments to locate which are actually helpful for the animal in question and which are just, well, unhelpful. You see, comments can be separated into two different categories- helpful and unhelpful- and while you might think your words of support fall into the beneficial category, it might be that the opposite is true.

How is a Comment Unhelpful?

Many animal rescuers work other jobs as well as work in rescue. In addition to home checks, vet appointments, training animals and organizing donations, they also have their own animals and fosters at home. This adds up to the fact that they really don’t have much time. Scrolling through comment after comment takes up valuable time. And the sad fact is many of the comments aren’t necessary, and can turn out to be time consuming for the front line rescuers to read.

They’ve already seen it all. The worried pleas, the good meaning show of support, and curious inquiries. It’s not that it’s bad per se to encourage the good work that rescuers do, it’s just that by only commenting to support them… You’re not really supporting them. It’s nice and all, but, really, it does nothing to help them. In fact, it can actually be counterproductive and make it more difficult for rescuers to find help or home for an animal in need.

Related: 5 Insider Secrets Only Foster Dog Parents Know

These comments clog up their newsfeeds – a dog might end up falling through the cracks, and not finding help in time. In hundreds of unhelpful comments, it’s easy to miss someone actually offering help or asking about adoption. The drone of ‘thoughts and prayers’ might seem supportive but it’s not.

More often than not, an “armchair rescuer” will also be trying to “save” an animal through other people. How does this work? You’ve probably seen many (maybe even left a few) comments saying “can somebody please go and help him”, “why isn’t anybody taking this baby out the shelter”, “somebody do something” and so on. Well, this is not just unhelpful, but also rude. Yes, you want someone to react and provide help. But often, people posting about a situation are completely overwhelmed by their duties to other rescues they are helping that they simply can’t react. How do you think that it makes them feel to read such pushy comments when they know there’s nothing that they can’t do? If you’re not able to really help an animal, there’s no point at pointing your finger for others, especially active rescuers, to do the same.

How Can I Be Helpful?

The fact that a good deal of comments on rescuer’s posts ends up being unhelpful doesn’t mean you should forego social media rescues for good. On the contrary! Social media and the internet in general have brought such wonderful innovations for the world of animal welfare and it would be a shame not to use every aspect of it. It’s just that instead of empty words, you could make sure that your engagement with a social media post actually leads to viable help for the pet in need.

Share the Post

You don’t need to comment that you have shared it – the author of the post will receive a notification. Sharing the post may help the animal in need by exposing it to someone who can help. You can never know if your neighbor or high school friend is looking to adopt a pet- sharing posts helps them reach a wider audience. Just be careful not to overshare- your Facebook friends might decide to hide your posts and it will all be for naught. Also, if you share 50 posts a day, it’s impossible for all of them to be shown on other people’s feeds, so again it won’t be productive.

Tag a Post

Tagging someone in a position to help can also helpful. It will bring awareness to the people who are in a position to help, and it will also notify any of their connections that the person was tagged. Sally Hull, of Hull’s Haven Border Collie Rescue explains the importance of tagging: “For instance, someone who knows me might see a Border Collie in need of rescue in a shelter in Minnesota. So they tag me on the listing. Because I belong to a larger network of Border Collie rescues, I know there is an excellent rescue that specializes in Border Collies right near where the dog is located. I tag the director of that rescue and the dog can be saved.”

Helping IRL (In Real Life)

There are great ways to offer help to animals in need in real life. There are many, many different shelters and rescue organizations across the country and around the world. Take some time to investigate the different groups that are hard at work in your area. These groups have a long list of needs ranging from financial support to a need for volunteers. Here are some ideas to get you started:


There are countless animals out there who would be happy to call your house home. Guaranteed there is a rescue animal who would be a good fit for you and your family. You can be an important part of the story, the happily-ever-after home.

But recognize that this is a long-term commitment for the life of this animal. Don’t make a snap decision to bring a pet into your home because you are currently feeling bad after reading a post online. Instead, take a step back and assess your lifestyle and family environment. Are you able to support the needs of a pet? Do you have the finances to offer care if something goes wrong? If you can make this commitment, great! If not, there are other ways that you can help.


Opening your home to an animal or a litter of animals in need is a great way to give back! Yes, it’s hard. Yes, you might want to keep them all. That’s just the type of person that the rescue needs… a person with a big heart! This is a great option for those that have the space and lifestyle to support an animal but aren’t sure that the finances are available. When fostering a pet, the rescue is responsible for providing for the animal’s needs and veterinary care. Your job is to provide a safe roof over their head and all the love, exercise, and attention that they need to thrive.


Take up a collection in the office, skip coffee runs once a week and instead sign up for an ongoing monthly donation. Go on a shopping spree and donate the items to the rescue. There are countless, creative ways to donate to rescue efforts.

Many social media platforms now have the ability to create online fundraisers. This means that you can bring together friends and family regardless of where they live. You can help to boost the amount that you raise by sharing it regularly or offering something to entice people to donate. For example, you may volunteer to dye your hair a specific color if a certain amount is raised or commit to biking a set distance in exchange for pledges.


Formally volunteering with a rescue might include driving pets to veterinary appointments, conducting home visits, photo shoots, checking references or managing social media campaigns. If you have a skill, guaranteed there is a rescue that would benefit from your time and expertise.

Kevin Roberts
Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: "Get outside and play with your dogs!

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