Friday, May 1, 2015

4 key ways to keep your pets safe on social media sites like Pinterest

Sinead the Boston terrier and her computer

When I open up Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, my screen is flooded with wee pet faces. I love it. Social media sites give we pet lovers an opportunity to share our critter cuteness with the world. I feel like I have pets in almost every corner of the world, simply because I see the same smiling, furry faces almost every day.

While we all love it when people share their pets with us, being a little too free and easy with your pets can come with some risks. That's especially true if your pet is somehow valuable or collectable. Giving away too much could mean losing your pet to a criminal or a vigilante.

Here are 4 easy steps to make sure that doesn't happen to you.

1. Watch out for collars and tags. 

Most pets wear identification around the clock. (That's something I've discussed before.) A dog's tags contain all sorts of vital information, including bits of data that make theft a snap. Before you post any photos on social sites, use your photo blurring tools to black out any information that could send a criminal to your house. That means addresses, your full name and phone numbers should all get the blurring treatment.

2. Scan photos for license plate numbers.

Do you pose your dog for shots when you're out and about? Chances are, if you do, that some of your photos contain your car and your license plate number. A sleuth with a little time to kill can use that number to figure out who you are and where you live. And visiting your dog could be an easy next step. Blur that data out of your photos, or better yet, crop it out altogether.

3. Stay away from the mail. 

When Fido shreds your mail, you're in for a perfect dog-shaming photo. But that snap also makes finding your house really, really easy. Whenever you're posing your dog with any kind of mail (and that includes magazines on the coffee table), your address should be blurred.

4. Refrain from controversial photos.

Most of the time, pet photos that people post are harmless. Often, they look a lot like this.

Liam the pug sleeping on his bed

These are just sleepy pet photos, with nothing too worrisome involved. But there are some photos that show pets doing things they shouldn't do. I've seen photos of pets jumping on kids, and there are tons of photos of dogs running loose in areas that look ever-so-slightly dangerous. Some photos also show dogs looking upset, guilty or nervous (particularly photos in the "dog shaming" category).

To you, as the pet owner, these probably seem totally fine. But to an outsider, they can be inflammatory. If the photo shows up somewhere like Pinterest, it's hard to get the context behind the photo. And some people get upset enough that they'll want to take action -- like removing your dog from your home.

The best way to stay safe is to keep the photos safe. If you notice even a touch of controversy, remove the photo.

That's it for my tips! Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments section.

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