When one of Solihull Council’s dog wardens picked up a stray pooch with no collar and no microchip last week, it looked like another potentially costly stay at the local kennels was imminent. However, one photo posted on Facebook and, within an hour, the dog’s owner had been found and tails were wagging all round.
By Dave Musson
Sometimes, you get afternoons that just make you smile, especially when they involve dogs. This was one of those gems and I’ll think you’ll like it too – even if you’re a cat person.
I picked up a call from a colleague in our environmental crime team, who wanted to tell me that the dog warden had just picked up a lost pooch that didn’t have a collar or microchip.
“We’ve got a photo of the dog,” he said, “and we wondered whether it might be a good idea to put it on the Council’s Facebook and Twitter page, to see if anyone recognises the dog.”
My reply was simple and immediate: “Great idea! Send me the pic and the details and I’ll make it so.”
And I did – so far, so samey…so what?
Well, what happened next was brilliant, it was social media achieving something tangible – perhaps not exactly the sort of problem-solving solutions worthy of telling the CEO like Coventry’s Martin Reeves challenged us to strive for last year, but certainly something much more impressive than most of our Facebook posts achieve (in Solihull anyway).
In less than an hour, someone had recognised the dog – who is called Vodsky – had told the owner where the dog was and had given us the owner’s mobile number. Brilliant! Surely worthy of a tasty treat?
Let’s look at the numbers for a moment, and I don’t just mean the 103 times the photo was shared on our Facebook page (the most shares we’ve ever had by the way)…this post saved the Council, and by extension local taxpayers, some money. We get charged £25 a week for every dog we take to the local dogs’ home, plus £70 kennel fees, so that’s nearly £100 of Scooby Snacks that we’re better off.
OK, I know £100 is a mere drop in puddle next to a river next to an ocean when it comes to local government finances, but it’s certainly better than a poke in the eye. Also, what value do you put on us quickly reuniting dog and owner? I’m sure most pet owners would attach some big numbers to it. Then there’s the reputational boost – this sort of story is a real tail wagger.
After the success with Vodsky, we’re now looking to use our social accounts to continue posting pictures of missing mutts. They won’t all get sorted in an hour. In fact, there’s been a lovely Staffie on our page for around a week now – his photo has had (at the time of writing) 288 shares and been seen by more 17,500 accounts, which isn’t bad going really.
We might even get some dogs where we have no luck at all tracing an owner, but it’s worth having a go, and I’ll tell you why.
This is a simple way for a council to use a cheap channel like social media and get a real result – one that can change service users’ lives if you want to use proper councilese. Put simply, we’re doing our jobs like usual, just using something like Facebook to perhaps make it a bit easier, cheaper and quicker, which is definitely worth a treat! Good dog!
Link to the post on our Facebook page
Dave Musson is senior communications officer at Solihull Council. He is also a dog person.
Vodsky the stray dog pic via Solihull Council