The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has warned the public on the dangers of social media, after a recent case was “made much more difficult” by misinformation spread this way.
After a dog was photographed by a member of the public with a visible abscess, widespread social media outrage ensued and “dozens” of calls were made to the charity’s hotline.
The charity warns that misinformation about cases could spread easily, and in this instance, the flooded hotline delayed “genuine emergencies” that needed to be reported.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, said: “While we rely on the public to be our eyes and ears, we must stress that we can only take reports about incidents they have concrete information about or have witnessed themselves.
“We can’t take reports via our social media channels and we can’t investigate incidents in other countries as we only operate in Scotland. Our helpline is there is take reports of animals in need of help or provide advice to the public. The service is not there to give updates on social media posts.”
He added: “Often, when a case is ongoing we are very limited in what we can say to the public as it could affect our chances of a successful prosecution. In fact, in the past, cases have fallen apart due to the interference of people on social media.
“The Society is always happy to help and offer advice but when we receive a high number of calls from those who have seen a post on social media and cannot provide eyewitness testimony, this can tie up valuable resources and time when we could be tending to animals in need of our help.
“We understand that animal welfare is an emotive subject and the public are often acting with good intentions, but we would urge them to think carefully about what they post on social media, and when they contact us, as they could end up doing more harm than good.”