CraigsList “Free to Good Home” Target Practice Warning
Have you seen this notice circulating Facebook or other social media websites? At first glance it seems official and certainly horrifying. Pets being picked up as “free to a good home” and then used as target practice? Say it ain’t so! While this world is big enough for all types and anything we can imagine, horrible or otherwise, can certainly happen that doesn’t mean it is true.
I’m all for doing my part to contribute to animal welfare in any way I can but I couldn’t confirm this story. Before I pass along any information from an unknown source, I do my best to validate the information as best I can. There wasn’t much to go on with this situation. It was a graphic, and as a graphic, it could be downloaded and moved to someone else’s profile easily. There was no trackback to find the source and no source was mentioned.
The source of the oldest file I saw circulating Facebook came from a generic “cute pet images stolen from across the internet” type of fan page with tens of thousands of irresponsible fans willing to click and share the latest copyright infringing content to all of their friends who would do the same. I have no way of knowing if this was the source or a copy. The Huffington Post is reporting the source as Salem, Friends of Felines as researched by KOIN-TV in Portland, Oregon. Wherever it came from, the file seemed to perpetuate into infinity and, within a couple days, it appeared on trusted animal rescue and care fan pages as if the file were their own, lending credibility to the claim. Several news outlets have picked up the story as it grows in popularity online.
Snopes, a long running website which aims to tell the truth and lies behind internet rumors, has this file listed as “undetermined” meaning they can neither confirm nor deny the claim. Local investigators in Marion County, Oregon, could not ignore the crime and have spent valuable time and resources investigating the validity themselves. The Huffington Post is reporting on the police investigation saying, “…they have heard from people who had posted on Craigslist in the “free to good home” section and have been contacted by animal rights activists and threatened because their animals could be used for deviant acts or target practice.” Did desperate animal rights activist create this situation in an attempt to stop CraigsList “free pet” CraigsList postings? Or is there someone out there who actually experienced this event but is unwilling to come forward. Snopes quotes investigators as saying, “Until such time as we have more tangible or verified information to work on, we’re not going to assign additional resources to investigate this.” Take it as you will.
The validity of the file aside, there is a lesson to be learned here. While it is important to never post a pet as “free to a good home,” it is not acceptable (or legal for that matter) to make false claims and take valuable resources away from our busy police and animal control resources investigating real animal abuse crimes. If this is a hoax, the ends do not justify the means. A false claim is a crime. The penalties vary from state to state with some requiring the person to directly make the report to the police or fire department. Other states do not have this requirement and anyone originating false crimes can be prosecuted, fined, even jailed. Read more about Oregon’s law on the topic of false reporting here.
Just as the file itself begs to be shared and open discussion, please add this article to your discussion as well. In animal welfare, we can not cry wolf. There are enough horrible crimes and stories too unbearable to share which are very real, current, and the animals need our help. Resist the urge to share unconfirmed stories or copyrighted images from a batch fan page looking to expand upon their tens of thousands of fans. Share and support the page of a rescue, shelter, or pro-bono veterinary center that gives aid directly to the animals instead. Your shares are valuable in supporting the right cause. Use them wisely.
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