You've probably gotten at least a glimpse of these Internet celebrities in viral videos or social media feeds: Toast Meets World, a toothless King Charles puppy mill rescue who has 342,000 Instagram followers; Bento the Keyboard Cat, who plays that electronic instrument not quite as well as Elton John; and Hamilton Pug, who went from a shelter in Ohio to a posh new environment in a high-end New York City zip code.
This morning, The Shelter Pet Project -- a partnership between The HSUS, Maddie's Fund and the Ad Council -- launched a new series of public service announcements featuring animals who never intended to become Internet stars but whose stories and personalities have been a big hit with so many people. They are serving as ambassadors for us in our quest to connect people with homeless animals and to save millions of lives.
My own dog Lily was about to be euthanized at a rural county shelter before a rescue group pulled her. She'd been passed over at adoption events time and again, as a shy, older beagle mix. But as soon as I saw her and her floppy ears, it was love at first sight, at least for me. Now I cannot imagine life without her. She makes me smile over and over every day, and I know that's the effect so many millions of other dogs and cats have on their human companions.
The PSAs, titled "Start a Story. Adopt," share the details of these now-famous pets and encourage people to build their own lifesaving narratives. We are also asking pet lovers nationwide to share stories of how their pet changed their life for the better, using the hashtag #StartAStoryAdopt, and to encourage potential adopters to visit TheShelterPetProject.org when they start searching for their next pet.
Since it was launched in 2009, The Shelter Pet Project, the first national pet PSA campaign that was designed to change negative public perceptions of shelter pets, has reached millions of people through television, radio, print and Internet advertising, and received more than $272 million in donated media. During that period, the euthanasia of shelter pets has declined by 12 percent.
Over the past year, there were more than 700,000 searches for pets available for adoption at the Shelter Pet Project website. Let's take that number into the millions, and if we do, we can end the euthanasia crisis in American shelters. That's a goal that every good person can endorse, and this Shelter Pet Project campaign is one more tool to help us get there.
This article first appeared on Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.