The tail-wagging, teary-eyed reunions are so spectacular, so gratifying.
“It’s like Christmas to me,” says Jeananne Phillips Jackson. “And it’s on a daily basis. There are so many bad things going on in the world, to see all these pets going back home, I know how good it feels.”
Proverbs 12 says “The righteous care for the needs of their animals,” and that’s appropriate for Lost and Found Pets – Huntsville, AL/Madison County, a Facebook site that was Jackson’s brainchild.
Now with more than 18,000 members, the site helped reconnect more than 130 animals with their owners in January via the magic of social media.
Not only does Lost and Found Pets serve the families and pets, it has provided a major boost to the City of Huntsville Animal Services Department. Members of the site will typically keep a stray pet for a brief period of time until the owner is found through the website. That eases the financial burden on the shelter and the workload for a busy staff.
“More people are wanting to help and they’re not taking (lost pets) straight to animal services,” Jackson says. “They’re going to the Lost and Found page first and we’re, luckily, usually getting the pets on and off the page within 24 hours. The pets aren’t exposed to kennel cough and they don’t get stress.”
A win-win for all involved.
On that subject: Lost and Found Pets has held some fundraisers to benefit Animal Services, providing a revamped PA system that pumps in music and ambient sounds after the close of business, which serves to calm animals, and it has provided kennel toys, too.
‘It just grew and grew and grew’
Jeananne Phillips Jackson obviously has “a big-time passion” for animals. But the Facebook page was spawned out of accident.
“I was actually on yard-sale sites looking for furniture and I came across a found dog, a lost dog and a lost cat (on the site),” she says. She created a secret Facebook page for herself and was able to match the photo of a dog that had been found with another post that it had been lost. She then contacted the people with the posts.
After numerous subsequent successful reunions, she was encouraged by her friends – “they were driving me crazy” – to go public.
Linda Huggins joined her to help archive the pets and it continued to blossom. Soon, they had connected to a network that included other sites, including Madison Animal Control and Pet Linker.
“It just grew and grew and grew,” Jackson says. “And dogs go back home. Or cats. Or pits. Or rabbits. A lot of rabbits.”
She’s already anticipating the influx of found rabbits in the weeks after Easter. Unfortunately, many families will release their Easter bunny into the wild, unaware they are domesticated and would be in great danger left on their own.
Facebook Posts on “Lost and Found Pests of Huntsville, AL/Madison County
Lost and Found Pets has branched out beyond its initial goal. It has created a 501(c)3 organization called Helping Animals With Shelters. People who have doghouses (or rabbit hutches!) no longer in use can contact the organization. Those unable to afford a proper doghouse can obtain one on a loaner basis.
Aside from being more prudent when it comes to adorable bunnies, Jackson has another strong recommendation.
“Microchip,” she says. “I don’t know how much I can stress that to people. It’s 20 bucks (for an owner to have it implanted). We ask everybody that shows up with a lost pet to take it to a pet store, vet, or Animal Services, and they’ll check for the microchip for free. It’s important to not only get the chip but also to keep the information updated. It could be the difference in getting your pet back or not.”
So, how does Huntsville Animal Services (HAS) feel about the group? To summarize – thankful for the help. HAS has an extremely successful Facebook Page, mostly used to promote adoptable animals (those pets that have been in the shelter for three business days). A page like “Lost and Found Pets” helps fill a resource gap.
“Jeananne has done so much for the shelter,” said Dr. Karen Sheppard, Director of Huntsville Animal Services. “We are grateful to have the help of Jeananne and her Facebook page. The page is the perfect example of the good that can arise from well intentioned people using social media to make a difference. She has helped activate a big-hearted community that cares about and actively supports dogs and cats in need. That’s a huge win.”