Videos showing people saving animals are regularly posted on online platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. It has been proven that fake rescue videos have joined the ranks of these real rescues. These alleged animal rescues are a scam to generate donations and make money. The sad thing about it is that animals have been known to be deliberately and intentionally exposed to dangerous and life-threatening situations, to be 'rescued' by people posing as animal rescue groups or animal activists. The following outlines how these videos are produced to help you spot the videos and report them.
The method behind it
A rabbit, kitten or puppy is shown in a dire situation. For example, a kitten sinks into the deep mud, a puppy is attacked by a snake, a rabbit is rescued from a dog attack. A 'hero rescuer' saves the poor creature. Their supposed heroic intervention is recorded on video and later shared online, usually accompanied by dramatic music. The video gets a lot of clicks because people enjoy seeing rescues. What they do not know is that the scene was created artificially: the kitten was put into the deep mud by the “rescuer”, the puppy was deliberately exposed to a snake, and the rabbit to the dog, all done in order so that they can be 'rescued'. These deceitful videos only have one aim to falsely generate donations.
What makes the situation even worse, is that in some instances some animals are injured to create more impact, emotion and urgency to help generate more donations. For the animals involved, the situation is associated with severe psychological suffering and physical pain and in some cases even death.
The dangerous game with empathy
The creators of such videos exploit the emotions of animal lovers. They deceive people with the videos and get them to become subscribers/donors so that they can deceitfully get money. This makes it very difficult for serious animal welfare organizations who share their genuine animal rescue videos on the different platforms. Platforms that collect and showcase animal rescue videos are also in a difficult position in terms of how to distinguish between genuine and fake videos.
- Does the scene look staged? Consider the overall situation. Do you notice that a person is being filmed who meets an animal in distress immediately after the first few moments? If there are no more than just two people on the scene (the rescuer and the filmmaker), why isn't the filmmaker helping? How compassionate is the rescuers? Do they respond to the creature or are they just doing their 'job'?
- Does the animal look familiar to you? Animals can be abused time and time again for different videos.
- What happens to the rescued animal? Does it become clear that the rescuer is taking care of the animal, seeking professional veterinary help, taking the animal to an animal rescue organisation, or does the clip just end with the immediate rescue.
- How did it come about that the rescuers were in the right place at the right time and had time to film the situation? Real rescue operations are usually in response to a request by a concerned member of the public or are planned in advance.
- Does the rescuer say that they belong to an animal welfare organization? If so, which one? If such information is available, research how reputable the organization is and whether the person is actually a representative of this organisation.
- How does the 'rescuer' react to critical questions on the video? Read the comments below the video. Are there any critical ones, those who express doubts about the authenticity of the video content? If so, what is the answer? Has the comment function been turned off?
Report any violation
The tips given above are intended to help you become more conscious and critical when viewing animal rescue videos before you decide to share them. If you suspect a video is dubious and violates animal welfare, report it to the platform provider and ask them to remove it. Spread the word and educate other people about fake rescue videos online to reduce animal suffering and people being deceived into giving donations. Genuine rescue groups will be happy to answer your questions and give follow up information on the animal rescued.