Humane Society is going viral at the Sundance Film Festival

Published: Friday, Jan. 29 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Actor John Oritz looks at the comments on his Facebook status update during the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 22. The Humane Society is asking stars at the festival to help its cause.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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PARK CITY — Actor Travis Wade was fresh from snowboarding when he signed a pledge to help the Humane Society of the United States.

Wade, a "big animal lover," also took a moment to update his Facebook page at a laptop set up by the Humane Society at the Art & Soul Center just off of Main Street.

Wade is in three movies coming out this year and was in Park City to support the film "Skateland" during the Sundance Film Festival.

On his Facebook page, he asked for all of his friends to join "the cause," officially known as The Shelter Pet Project.

New York-based Think PR paired up Facebook and the Humane Society during Sundance to compel "pet lovers" to seek out shelters first when adding an animal to their family.

The Humane Society set up a laptop at the entrance to a lounge where throughout the festival celebrities have been coming to relax and recharge.

Humane Society celebrity outreach coordinator Kathy Bauch said the goal during the festival is to use celebrities' influence and friends to more quickly and easily raise awareness of the need to adopt from shelters first. She said the "old school" ways merely consisted of public service announcements on TV.

Bauch noted that the Humane Society is also currently on the ground in Haiti to assess the needs of animals in the aftermath of the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake.

Think PR's Karli Dougherty said the message they're trying to drive home during Sundance is, "People need to adopt and not buy pets from pet stores online." More information is available at the Web site, www.theshelterpetproject.org.

Carie Lewis, director of emerging media for the Humane Society, was recently looking at one celebrity's Facebook page and took note of all the responses in just a short period. "That's great, because then it starts a conversation," Lewis said.

She is also taking advantage of an ideal setup and a somewhat captive audience to get the word out about an annual seal "slaughter" in Canada.

"Every year, around April, a group of Canadians kills baby seals," Lewis said. "They brutally slaughter these baby seals.

"They sell the fur abroad," she added. "It's all in the name of fashion."

Lewis said the Humane Society and other animal rights groups are "making strides," based on information that demand for the baby seal fur is down.

In keeping with the techno theme, Lewis noted that footage of the seal slaughter is available on YouTube and at the Web site www.humanesociety.org.

e-mail: saspeckman@yahoo.com

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