Pets are becoming social media managers to inspire pet lovers to adopt.

They're doing their part to find homes for shelter pets across America.

Three years ago, I decided to adopt a cat from a shelter, and it changed my life completely.

I had debated doing it for years before actually walking the two-and-a-half blocks over to my local shelter, and now I wish I hadn't waited so long.

I stepped into the crowded pet viewing room and almost immediately locked eyes with not one, but two tiny tiger kittens, one gray and one orange, sitting quietly in the same cage.


I couldn't believe how steadily they held my gaze, and when I asked to pick them up, one climbed up my arm and perched on my shoulder, while the other snuggled under my chin.

That was it.

I went into the shelter with the intention of taking home one cat — and left with two.

Oh lord, what have I done? Photo via Ally Hirschlag.

Today, because I was open to it, I am the proud parent of two gorgeous cat siblings named Bill and Vespa, who fill every day with joy and laughter.  

Hug or chokehold? Tough call.

Bill and Vespa found their family, but there are millions of other pets who are still waiting at shelters and rescue groups for theirs.

And at the same time, there are an average of 29 million prospective pet parents looking to acquire a cat or dog each year. If fewer than 10% of them choose to adopt a pet, all the dogs and cats currently in shelters and rescue groups will find homes.

"We only need to find homes for fewer than 2 million pets each year — that's just a small fraction of the total number of pets who will be acquired in that same year," Mary Ippoliti-Smith, spokesperson for the pet rescue group Maddie's Fund®, a family foundation created to revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals, writes in an email. "We're almost there, and every adoption gets us closer."

So how can we help reduce this number even further? Shelter pets themselves might be the answer.

What if shelter pets could use social media to showcase their friends to pet-seekers and help these amazing dogs and cats get adopted?

"Tell me more." Photo by Rex Sorgatz/Flickr.

That's the brilliant idea behind the Social Paws initiative — a brainchild of The Ad Council, The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie's Fund, and J. Walter Thompson New York.

These three organizations established The Shelter Pet Project in 2009 to make shelters and rescue groups the first choice and preferred method for those looking to acquire a pet. With the Social Paws initiative, dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups act as social media managers, creating cute, funny posts for The Shelter Pet Project’s social media channels. With these posts, dogs and cats are demonstrating how amazing shelter pets are and encouraging people to adopt.

Here's how it works:

Thanks to social media-savvy pets like the ones above, adopted pets everywhere have a voice. Sometimes all it takes is a look to know they're meant to be yours.

When you choose to adopt a pet, you're not only making their life infinitely better, you're making your life better too.

Just look at these happy customers:

Rescue animals often do well together, unless of course you neglect Lucy the Princess cat.

Nighttimes are always better with a fluffy cuddle buddy.

Happy #flashbackfriday everyone! We were tagged by @dashandvinnie for the #selfiewithmyhooman challenge and our pawrents think we're cuter than them (I mean DUH, just look at us! 😹) so we don't have a ton of selfies with them but this is my favorite picture of my momma and I right after they adopted me! Look at my belly floof!! I allowed snuggles and kissies for 0.7 seconds before I jumped away to play with dad. #toocuteformyowngood #cutestillgetsmeoutoftrouble #exceptwithsisfur😹😹 . #fbf #tabby #tabbycat #tabbycatsrule #tabbysofinstagram #tabbycatsofinstagram #catsofminneapolis #catsoninstagram #catsofinstagram #catstagram #rescue #rescuecat #rescuesofinstagram #rescueismyfavoritebreed #tabbykitten

A post shared by Gunnar 💙 & Benelli ❤️ (@originalsasshole) on

Adorable or adorably guilty?

A cat makes the best yoga companion.

This is what best friends look like.

Who says your baby has to be human?

#dogbaby #rescuedog

A post shared by Bowmaning (@keldabowman) on

Super Cat!

Take your dog to work day.

Giving Cutler a break from shelter life for #takeyourdogtoworkday 🐶 #dogs #dogsofinstagram #rescuedog #senior #adoptabledogs

A post shared by Rebecca Williams (@rebeccajwilliams90) on

This pet owns his human as much as his human owns him.

Louie hangin' out 😻😻 #Louie #furbaby #rescuecat #rhondastreasures #ragdollx

A post shared by Jessica Stanford (@honey_139) on

And it's not just about the happiness that endless snuggles can bring. Adopting a pet can have many other significant benefits too.

"Sharing our lives with pets has been shown to reduce allergies, lower blood pressure, help people get more exercise, feel more connected, and even contributes to shorter recovery times from surgery and illness," Ippoliti-Smith explains. "Add that to the joy of giving a second chance to a pet who needs one, and it's probably the best decision any of us will ever make."

The pets also get the opportunity to become the best version of themselves. Their personalities blossom when they're with a human family who loves them. You can see that clearly in all the personal adoption stories on The Shelter Pet Project's website.

If you've been thinking about adopting a furry friend, don't get cold feet.

Take it from a fellow shelter pet owner — the leap of faith will be worth it.

My husband, Mark, and our cat children. Photo by Ally Hirschlag.

For anyone who wants to start looking, you can search your local shelters using this helpful tool from The Shelter Pet Project. And if you have questions or concerns, you can always reach out to the organization from which you're interested in adopting.

Together we can easily empty out the shelters and rescue groups across the country. All it takes is a few simple steps to meet your new best friend.

*This article was written by Upworthy contributor Ally Hirschlag.

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Ad Council + The Shelter Pet Project
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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Have you ever watched a movie that's so abysmally bad that you wonder how it ever even got made? Where you think, "Hundreds and hundreds of people had to have been directly involved in the production of this film. Did any of them ever think to say, 'Hey, maybe we should just scrap this idea altogether?"

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