When it comes to hiring government help, five grand isn’t a lot of money; however, animal welfare advocates in Guilford County are hoping that a new $5,000 grant will go a very long way toward the goal of helping dogs, cats and other animals at the Guilford County Animal Shelter find a loving home.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has accepted and allocated $5,000 from a West Coast animal advocacy group meant to address an issue that’s been a major source of contention lately – the complaint that the shelter doesn’t use social media effectively to interact with the public and get animals adopted.

That’s where the new $5,000 from Maddie’s Fund is intended to help.

Maddie’s Fund is a California-based family foundation named after a beloved miniature schnauzer.  The fund, established in 1994, has given out more than $225 million in grants to aid shelters and help animals over the last quarter of a century.  The fund’s goal is to create “a no-kill nation where every dog and cat is guaranteed a healthy home or habitat.”

The $5,000 will go toward hiring a part-time, social media public information consultant for the next six months.  According to county documents that guide the use of the money, the “position is meant to help Animal Services enter the 21st century in terms of engaging with the public on various real-time social media platforms.”

That will, of course, include all the usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr – and even live chats on the county’s website.

Guilford County Animal Services Director Jorge Ortega said Guilford County is already poised to hire the consultant who will help county staff beef up its social medial presence.

“We do have someone in mind for that position and we are planning to meet with them next week,” Ortega said on Friday, Feb. 15.

The county’s use – or rather, lack of use – of Facebook and other social media to promote animal adoption has been a hot button issue over the last year for many Guilford County animal lovers.  During 2018, at meetings of the Guilford County Animal Welfare Advisory Board – a board established two years ago to oversee shelter operations – there were frequent complaints that the county wasn’t maximizing its use of social media.

A statement from the Animal Services Department to the county commissioners spoke to a secondary goal of getting a social media consultant: “An underlying objective is to use this project to demonstrate convincingly to our community the positive impact of Animal Services.  We believe it is time for Animal Services to establish a positive, professional, and effective presence on a variety of social media platforms to engage the public in helpful ways, and this grant request is our first step on this road.”

Recently the county beefed up its efforts to communicate better with the public in several ways.  That includes the creation of a full-time position for a community outreach coordinator who will have the job of managing public shelter events, handling public relations for the shelter and engaging the community in animal affairs through traditional media and social media.