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Marissa Ionno Headshot

Giving Animals a Voice on Facebook

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Marissa Ionno

It's amazing what clicking a "share" button can do. All my life I knew I was going to do animal rescue, but because of the success of my Facebook page, The TAILS Network, my path has been truly altered. Without it, I would have never made the connections I've made that have given more than 50 dogs a second chance at life -- and all because a 20 year-old girl decided to do something instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else to make a difference.

It all started last May. I had just finished my sophomore year of college and knew I would have some free time on my hands in the upcoming summer months. I have always loved animals, but over the past few years, my passion has grown to a new level. So I thought, "What better way to volunteer my time than by going to the animal shelter?" I consider myself to be a pretty strong person, but leaving the shelter my first day, I had no clue how hard my emotions would really hit me. I remember getting in my car and before I was even able to buckle my seat belt, I just broke down in tears. I cried the entire ride home knowing those animals weren't going to be sleeping in warm beds that night. I don't think I could possibly love my two dogs, Nicco and Carmela more if they were my own kids. Carmela was abused as a puppy and even after years of love and reassurance, she's still frightened from things of her past. It baffles my mind that people don't think these animals have feelings, a memory of what they've been through, and yet, they still have such a forgiving nature about them. These helpless animals shouldn't be penalized because we, as humans, have failed them.

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As days turned into weeks, my sadness turned to frustration. Why had some of the dogs been there for years? Why were they overlooked day after day, month after month? These amazing creatures, filled with love, intelligence, and understanding were wasting years of their lives in cages. That's when it hit me that I could do even more to make a difference. I was active on Facebook everyday, and knowing how many people social media can reach, I wanted to attempt to network some of these animals on my own. I had already 'Liked' several cross-posting pages on Facebook and would look daily at the numerous animals needing urgent placement, but I felt that there was never a personal touch to any of the pages I was on. If I would ask a question, I'd never get a response. If I'd send a message to an inbox, it'd never be answered. I knew there were people that had to feel like me, people who wanted to help cross-post and network animals but felt that their efforts were pointless. That's why I started The TAILS Network.

On July 13, 2012, I started my own cross-posting page to help give exposure to death row animals, but also to help keep animals out of shelters. I worked out the details over the next few weeks, spending hours at night telling other networking pages about my new page and asked them to share to their followers as well. The advantage of having a type "A" personality? I never go into things half hearted. I knew when I started TAILS that once I had completely committed, I'd do all I could to help these animals. Word quickly spread and before I knew it, I was not only featured on local news but national as well and this past January, I was chosen by Glamour magazine as one of the contestants in their Top Ten Reader's Choice contest for Glamour's Top College Women package.

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In the nine months since the page has gone up, it's garnered the support of nearly 6,000 members. Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized every day -- nearly 800 an hour -- and it's fulfilling to know we're helping to find these animals loving homes. I'm working to make TAILS into a non-profit by the end of 2013, and plan to run a high quality animal rescue after I graduate college.

I couldn't have done any of this without the supportive, and just plain awesome people who take the time to connect with my Facebook page. I take pride in knowing these people on a personal level and always want them to know their shares and comments are appreciated. This is a community of people who genuinely care about other creatures and want to do the right thing. Because of them, these animals have a voice.

If you have a Facebook story you'd like to share, please visit Facebook Stories and submit your story here. We'd love to hear from you!