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Pets on Twitter raise funds for needy animals

Romeo the cat

Dougal and Romeo live in different countries and have never met in person. One's a dog, one's a cat. But they're quite the party animals.

The two pets -- OK, their owners -- host "pawpawties" on Twitter to raise money for animal causes.

Every month, a date and cause are chosen. Through social networking, word spreads, the countdown begins and anticipation builds until the pawpawty and donation pledges begin.

It all started in February when Caroline Golon in Charlotte, N.C., opened a Twitter account for her rescue cat, Romeo, to make a co-worker laugh. She then turned the account into a fundraising program she calls Furpower, offering to donate a nickel to the Humane Society of the United States for every new follower.

"I realized that the pet community online was quite remarkable. I started raising money on Twitter right away," she said. "My number of followers exploded."

Golon launched a blog, Romeothecat.com, and people started telling her about other animal charities that needed help. Money came through donors who found her on Twitter, Facebook and the blog. She started selling magnets that said "Rescue Mom" and "Rescue Dad." Corporate sponsors started pitching in.

The real party started when Lynn Haigh of Stamford, England, came up with the idea of a Twitter party for pets. The former project manager in technology and banking turned to freelancing two years ago and wanted a "pet project" to keep her busy between contracts. That's when she and her 14-year-old cairn terrier, Dougal, found Golon and Romeo.

The women and their animals joined forces and their first pawpawty was held on March 17 -- St. Patrick's Day. They drew a crowd of dogs, cats, bunnies, even stuffed critters who toasted one another with barkeritas, meowmosas and money.

The mini-message marathons last a full day so pawtiers can check in at their convenience. Trivia contests and scavenger hunts with prizes have been added.

"People take on the personalities of their animals and get to say and do things that they probably would not do at a real party. I love to just watch the conversation or Twitter stream unfold," Haigh said in an e-mail.

Romeo the cat The women use the Web sites firstgiving.com and justgiving.com to take care of collecting tweeted pledges and providing tax receipts to donors. There is a small fee but the women would be overwhelmed if they had to handle the money and the paperwork, Golon said.

Money from the first pawpawty went to Animals in Distress in Harrisburg, Pa., and the second to Kitten Rescue in Los Angeles. Most charities get about $1,000. Furpower usually doubles that because of corporate sponsors.

Ben Lehrer, the president of Kitten Rescue, said the donation came at the beginning of kitten season.

"It enabled us to rescue more. We are limited by our financial ability to care for the animals we rescue. So it quite literally saved lives," he said.

Haigh wanted to expand outside the United States, so she took over planning and they started alternating charities in and out of the United States.

Golon, who has another rescue cat named Pugsley, said her involvement started as an "experiment in social media," but it quickly became more. "If it weren't for the organizations that are in the trenches every day, many of us would not have the wonderful animals we have to love today."

Contest prize donors help too, Haigh said. Each month there are 50 or 60. "We have everything from a doggie life jacket to some tasty kitty treats and books by famous 'anipal' authors. It is heartwarming to see how generous people are with their time and money."

Golon is working on a free e-book that will help animal rescue groups use social media for fundraising, followed by a series of Webcasts.

"This is a great creative outlet for people. You can be silly and mingle with your Twitter community," she said. "What the Twitter founders had in mind is crystalized in pawpawties, a community coming together for a common purpose. They can make things happen."

-- Associated Press

Top photo: Caroline Golon holds Romeo as she works on her computer in her Huntersville, N.C. home.  Credit: Nell Redmond / Associated Press 

Bottom photo: Romeo relaxes.  Credit: Nell Redmond / Associated Press

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

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Thanks for posting this story! Kudos to Dougal, Romeo and their people! This is especially inspiring in these tough times. I was fortunate to meet Caroline in person recently. She and Lynn are tireless in their rescue efforts. Go FURpower!

How wonderful that these people have started this. Thank you for caring for the ones that have no voice.

This is a heartwarming story and such a fun and creative way to raise money to help our furry babies. Our thanks go out to the social networkers who put themselves out there to raise money for animal charities.

Pets Rule! :D

Could you help the Butte Humane Society in Chico CA. Their heater is broken!!! The shelter has no heat for the animals for two weeks now (and at one time it got down to 17 degrees above zero), and is in need of lots of items also.
In the Chico Enterprise Record ( locale newspaper) there was a letter to the editor on 12/29/09 pleeding to the community for help.

I am trying to raise money to help me pay for my cat Spooky's chemotherapy. He has been receiving chemotherapy since July 2010 and has been given a grant recently to help. Unfortunelty it isn't enough to cover his 19 more weeks of chemotherapy and I need to raise an additional $8000.00.
Spooky is doing excepetionally well.
He goes every 3 weeks to get his chemotherapy treatments.
visit his story at www.cancerpets.org or his web page
Also through them donations could be made WWW.CANCERPETS.ORG or directly to my cats doctor NYC Veterinary Specialists 212-767-0099 or to my paypal account tazzy92796@aol.com.
He has gotten this far and he is doing exceptionally well on his chemo he is a robust [20lbs] bundle of love [and his doctor wants him to lose a little lbs]
Thank you

Can you help Lincoln? Lincoln is a beautiful 3 year old St. Bernard who will be spending this Christmas at the Sauk County Humane Society in Baraboo, WI. This young boy is the sweetest and friendliest critter and he wants so badly to go to his forever home. There is just one problem....he needs surgery. Without it Lincoln will not survive. The surgery costs $4200. We have found a veterinarian who will do the surgery for half price and the family who wants to adopt Lincoln can afford to pay $800 toward the surgery so we are trying to raise $1300. If there is anyone out there that would be willing to help us save Lincoln and give him a chance to go to his forever home, please email me at: katie@saukhumane.org. Thank you and Merry Christmas!


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