Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin addresses the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington, June 15, 2013. Reuters

Thousands of users responded with outrage to a New Year’s Day message from Sarah Palin on Facebook that included photos of her son Trig standing on the family dog, using it as “his stepping stone.” More than 15,000 people commented on the photos, many scoffing at Palin’s “great parenting” and calling it “animal abuse.”

“Happy New Year! May 2015 see every stumbling block turned into a stepping stone on the path forward. Trig just reminded me,” Palin wrote on her Facebook page.

Trig, who has Down Syndrome, is seen using the family’s black Labrador as a step stool in order to reach the kitchen sink. The dog, who appears unbothered, is lying on the kitchen floor as the 6-year-old stands on his back and hangs over the sink.

A storm of Facebook users commented on the photos, which received more than 55,000 “likes,” and many blasted Palin for allegedly praising her son for standing on an animal. “Shameful. That’s a living creature,” Facebook user Kristina Victoria posted.

“This is so wrong on so many levels - the child having special needs is NOT an excuse or reason to allow him to disrespect another sentient being. It is also shocking that the mother is standing there taking photos whilst the child is doing it,” Facebook user Alison Staffyclub commented.

Some defended both Palin and Trig, noting that the dog appeared unharmed and untroubled by the incident. “Anyone with a half a brain can see that he is putting most of his weight on the counter edge and that he is not harming the dog at all! Furthermore it is not a defenseless dog and if he didn't like it he would move in an instant,” Facebook user Rick Woodland posted.

“Obviously this is an awesome dog who loves this little boy. They have a bond and relationship that most of the people who posted senseless comments don't understand. There will come a time when Trigg [sic] and his dog won't be able to do this, but until that time comes just let him be a little boy with an awesome dog,” Facebook user Douglas Allen Fraser commented.

Palin, who was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, is no stranger to being scorned on social media. The former Alaskan governor and reality TV star has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama. Palin was criticized in July when she called for Obama’s impeachment and referred to America as a Spanish-speaking battered wife. "Enough is enough of the years of abuse from this president. His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, 'No mas,’” Palin wrote on Breitbart, a politically conservative website.