Socialized: How one small shelter is using social media for pet adoptions

SPRINGVILLE -- Sarah Faulkner wanted a cat. After recently moving out of her parent’s home, the 21-year-old University of Alabama in Birmingham senior, with a steady income and living situation at hand, knew that she wanted to add a few more roommates into the mix, preferably one she could pet while doing homework. So after she got off work on July 9, Faulkner decided to make a short trek to an animal rescue she found on the internet. Driving 40 minutes outside of Birmingham to the small, hilly town of Springville, Faulkner made her way through foothills to a family’s property, not only the home of the Lockhart family but also the home of dropped off and abandoned animals of any kind: Safe Haven Animal Shelter.

13254374_10154206818328482_6359552041439859638_n“I found it online, Stephanie [Lockhart] had posted on ... a Facebook group. and she had posted some pictures of some kittens, and they had been either abused or neglected, and I really wanted to help them out," Faulkner said as she arrived at the shelter, the Alabama heat speeding up her words as she anxiously edged toward the cats’ home.

Safe Haven is run and operated by Carol Lockhart -- a lifelong animal lover and advocate -- with help from her daughter, Stephanie, a UAB student.

“[I’ve been rescuing] since I was three,” Carol said, laughing while giving Sarah a tour around the facility. “My first [rescued] dogs were a mom and puppy. I was really little then.”

Since that fateful day, Lockhart, a nurse, has continued caregiving and rescuing animals whenever she can. Her shelter became official shelter in 2001.

Their facility is separated into three parts: Farm animals live on the far side of the property; the dogs, all with their own houses and shaded shelters, live in a fenced grassy area toward the middle; and the cats and rabbits stay inside free-roaming rooms and enclosed porches, giving all the animals room to move around and explore in safety.

Carol says most people hear about Safe Haven through word of mouth, and her daughter, Stephanie, doesn’t disagree.

“People can find out about us to take their animals here, but they can't find out about adopting animals," she said. However, both of the Lockhart women want to change this long-developing trend they’ve noticed with the help of social media.

"I guess it was more so my mom. She kept saying that she wanted a website, and I was like 'you shouldn't just have a website; you should have a Facebook and Instagram.’ And we knew that having a social media profile can really get your name out there,” Stephanie said. “It just allows you to connect with so many more people who are also passionate about animals, and [people] who know other people who want animals. It's just the right move ... the next move."

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Larry is available for adoption from Safe Haven. (Photo by Casey Marley)

With almost 700 Facebook likes, the mother-daughter duo has hired a social media manager with the hope that more people like Faulkner will take their Facebook prowlings into actual action --making the drive to adopt a rescued animal.

Through the tour, Faulkner kept returning to a brown tabby kitten named Charger, the kitten publicized on Facebook. While initially feeling guilty for not finding a match with an older cat, Stephanie told her not to worry.

“We haven't had that many people interested in the kittens,” she said. “... it's so much harder for the older cats to get adjusted, so our main focus is to have the kittens find homes, just because they're going to adapt to their environments much more easier than like the older cats because they're already set in their ways. So we want the kittens adopted first."

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Charger is now Odin, Sarah Faulkner's kitty. (Photo by Casey Marley)

This focus on care and well-being of the animals at Safe Haven includes all aspects. While cuddling Charger, Carol asked Faulkner questions about her home to ensure that the cat would have plenty of attention and will be kept indoors. With those answered, Lockhart even offered to pay the medical bills for the rest of his shots and his neuter surgery if she took him to the Lockhart family vet.

Driving home with “precious cargo,” in a lent Safe Haven cage, Faulkner couldn’t wait to go back to her new home to play and welcome in her new kitten.

Now settled in, the college student has renamed little Charger to “Odin” to match her Norse -themed other cat’s name, “Loki.”

To contact Safe Haven, visit its Facebook page, “Safe Haven Animal Shelter,” or call 205-914-4012 for more information.

Casey Marley

Casey is a mass communications student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is the former editor for the UAB student newspaper, the Kaleidoscope. An Alabama native, Casey has called the Montgomery, Huntsville, and Birmingham areas of the state home. Growing up with animals, Casey is an animal lover and believes all creatures should be treated humanely. In the future, she plans to be a reporter and officially become a member of the fourth branch of government.

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