Report, don’t share! Tips for spotting staged animal rescue videos

There has been a fair bit of attention in recent months by animal welfare groups about social media becoming inundated with fake animal rescue videos. This has been going on for a few years, and disturbingly they seem to be on the rise. Here we explain what these fake rescue videos are all about, and tips for spotting them.

These fake rescue videos show animals who are either trapped in something, being attacked by something, or are in some other distress before being “rescued” by a “hero”, who also just happens to film it. Sometimes they involve animals being put in positions where they have to save their offspring or other animals. They are designed to come across as heart-warming, but when the truth comes out about them being staged, the reality is heart breaking.

They often, but not exclusively, originate from developing Asian countries, such as India, Philippines and Vietnam. They are usually accompanied by extremely cheesy music and subtitles with poor grammar.

The engagement the creators receive from naive social media users who share their videos allow their channels to be monetized which, for them, can equate to big money. Part of the blame for this problem can be laid at the feet of platforms such as ViralHog who offer money for these videos. We have also seen these fake rescue videos shared on pages with huge followings such as The Dodo and LADbible; unfortunately their actions are perpetuating this abuse.

If you visit these channels, you can often see the same individual animals, mainly dogs and cats, being re-used over and over, presumably until they die. It may be a kitten being attacked by a python, a puppy stuck in a flooded drain, or a deer stuck in a pit. The animal often dies during the “rescue”, and they then use earlier filmed footage to make it look like the animal lived.

These channels often have millions of views per video and on YouTube they have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Animals are being killed, injured and tortured every day because of how lucrative this is. The social media companies are doing NOTHING to take down these channels; many individuals and welfare organisations have been trying without success to have them removed.

DO NOT share these videos. They take your empathy, compassion and hope, and turn it into torture, death and cash. The road to hell is all too often paved with good intentions.


Distressing image of a staged rescue from a video being shared on social media

Before engaging with an animal rescue video, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Does it involve a reputable organisation, such as a legitimate animal welfare agency or emergency service? If the answer is no, do not share.
  2. Does it seem unusual that someone is filming this? Would the rescue be made easier or quicker if the person filming put down the phone and helped with the rescue? If the answer is yes, do not share.
  3. Is there any other description/context given? If the answer is no, do not share. Legitimate organisations would almost always provide a more detailed description of what happened and their involvement. If the video involves someone randomly happening upon an animal in need of rescue, it is likely staged.

Bottom line is, use your common sense; use critical thinking. If it seems staged, it probably is. If you have the slightest inkling something is not right, do not engage with the video. Don’t like, don’t comment, don’t share. Just report the video as animal abuse, and if enough people do it, Facebook and other social media companies might start to take notice, and eventually we may defeat this evil together.

Animal welfare organisation Four Paws has been campaigning for an end to these staged videos, they’ve shared some further information and more great tips for spotting them.