I’ve been writing about dogs for over a decade, but only recently have I started thinking about the way my writing impacts the safety of my dogs.
I’ve learned if you write publicly about your pet, it’s likely at some point a reader will say something threatening about them, and you’re going to have to grapple preserving your own emotional safety and how to keep your pet safe. Pet parents are an opinionated bunch, and as publications push pet bloggers to write more controversial or sensationalist articles to increase site hits, we have to prepare how we will professionally react when readers turn hateful.
After I had a couple stories go viral, readers commented that if I didn’t allow my dogs off leash, they would call animal control and have my dogs taken away. I even had readers threaten that my dog should be euthanized. This was in response to what I thought was a fairly typical pet parent article asking people to follow leash laws. The situation got me thinking definitely got me thinking about how as pet bloggers we have to manage online privacy and safety for ourselves and for our pets.
First rule of blogging: For your blood pressure, don’t read the comments.
Second rule: If you do read comments, don’t engage.
Rules are made to be broken, and some publications encourage or require writers to engage with readers in the comments. Sometimes that goes well, and sometimes responding to readers only “feeds the trolls.” If that happens, here’s what you need to know.
3 keys to protecting your pet’s online privacy:
Don’t engage. Unless you absolutely must engage with comments, I encourage you not to. Very few people who spend their days picking fights with writers in a comment section are going to have their opinion changed by comments from you. You already made your case in the blog, and if someone didn’t agree with you there they aren’t going to agree with you in the comments.
Escalate, if necessary. If you see threatening or abusive comments, don’t be afraid to escalate the situation. Notify your editor when you start seeing threatening messages. In the above instance, my editor immediately requested I stop engaging with comments (a previous expectation) once my dog got threatened. If you have reason to believe that you or your pet are in actual imminent physical danger, it is also appropriate to go to the police.
Consider pseudonyms. After my viral articles last year I started wondering if I should have decided to write about my pets with pseudonyms. While it was too late for me to do that, I did consciously begin masking details about our exact neighborhood, daily routines, and schedules in my writing. I also treated this as a training opportunity. Now, I teach my dogs to ignore strangers that call out to them while on the street, even if that person knows their names.
Do you engage with angry readers? Have you had any readers make threats to your pets? Let us know how you protect your pet’s privacy in the comments!
Sassafras Lowrey is an award winning author. Her novels have been honored by organizations ranging from the Lambda Literary Foundation to the American Library Association. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Trainer, and assists with dog agility classes. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner, a senior Chihuahua mix, a rescued Shepherd mix, and a Newfoundland puppy along with two bossy cats and a semi-feral kitten. Learn more at www.SassafrasLowrey.com.