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Fake rescue content: All you need to know

Content showing animals being rescued from danger are popular on social media. Everyone loves a happy ending for an animal in need! Unfortunately this interest is exploited by creators, often in an attempt to make money. 


Fake rescue content shows animals deliberately put in harmful situations specifically so that the content creator can "rescue" the animal from that situation. Fake rescue content can also involve animals who are injured - for example with broken limbs or stuck in glue, oil or traps, or animals in life-threatening situations such as being stuck in bodies of water or trapped under large objects. 


Sometimes these videos are presented as prey animals being rescued from predator species. Often the animals placed together would be very unlikely to meet in the wild - for example, kittens being attacked by a boa constrictor. Sadly, these situations are staged simply so the creator can film the so-called “rescue” for social media. 


Disturbingly, some creators seemingly make animals ill or injure them in order to film them being treated. Some even show animals being given CPR, who appear to be dying or perhaps drugged. Another popular theme is to make it appear as though animals have tick parasites, by sticking beans or seeds onto their fur which are then pulled off. 


Sometimes these accounts will claim to be animal rescues and ask for donations, usually via a paypal link. You should never send any money unless you know for sure it is a legitimate animal rescue. 

Here are some clues you can look out for to spot fake rescue content: 


  • Is it an unusual situation? Would the animal likely be in that situation or environment? 

  • Are the animals native to the area the videos are taking place? For example, we have seen turtles being “rescued” from and released in the sea when they do not live in such habitats. 

  • Does the person filming stand for a long time simply filming the animal in danger before any attempt at rescue? 

  • Does the account sharing the video have many similar videos? Often accounts creating fake rescues will have many of these videos which appear to be filmed in the same place, sometimes with the same animals. 

  • Are the animals used for the videos alway the same individuals? 

  • Is the human rescuing the animals always the same person? You may find that the “rescuer” is the same person every time.

  • Are the “rescuers” wearing any protective equipment? 

  • Are the “rescuers” providing medical care to the animals using standardized medical procedures in established medical facilities? 

  • Is there any additional information on what happens to the animals after the rescue? 

  • Are they a legitimate rescue with a website and more information? 

  • Are all images used very graphic and shocking to attract attention? 

  • Is the main goal of these videos to gather donations?

All you need to know
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Examples of fake rescue videos SMACC has documented on various social media platforms.

Our key message is to use critical thinking when viewing animal content. Take a step back and actively think about:

  • the situation you are viewing, 

  • the experience of the animals involved and 

  • the person behind the camera. 

Instead of liking or sharing rescue videos, visit the account’s profile and have a look at their overall page. With the list of criteria mentioned above, you should be able to very quickly determine whether you’re watching fake rescue content. 

If that’s the case, report the video(s) directly to the platforms. 

What are social media platforms doing? 
What is SMACC doing? 
  • Raising awareness with the public, so they can spot fake rescue and report it;

  • Calling for platforms to create policies prohibiting fake rescue content;

  • Working with platforms to enforce policies to make sure the content is removed;

  • Collecting data (links) of fake rescue content to analyze trends and have evidence of cruelty;

  • Sharing information with local animal organizations where possible, to track and prosecute perpetrators of abuse;

  • Advocating for an end to all fake rescue content to protect animals from harm.

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