Police claim dog theft hoax

WHILE South Gippsland residents were ready last week to join vigilante groups to protect their pets from thieving gangs, police say no such threat existed.

Reports from hysterical online posters like – “Wonthaggi Police caught a guy about 15 minutes ago with 3 dogs in the back. Looks like a white ute, too dark to see properly.” – were nothing but hot air.

Stories about dog thefts spread like wildfire on Facebook, with reports that the cruel thieves – who purportedly steal dogs for fighting and others for bait – were marking properties with chalk and ribbon, ready to steal prized pets.

But police were keen to quell the hysteria and issued a written statement (the same one The Star had put on the ‘Dog Theft Tracking Australia Wide’ website):

“The Bass Coast and South Gippsland Police Service Area are aware of a number of claims currently being circulated via social media in relation to the theft of dogs for fighting purposes.

“Police have been called to a local address in Leongatha a number of times after reports of two men purporting to be police, claiming they had attended to confiscate a dangerous dog. Limited detail has been provided to police on each occasion and claims that attempts have been made to steal dogs in the area are unfounded.

“There is no evidence to support these claims despite police responding in less than a minute on one occasion when one particular incident was reported via Triple Zero (000). Police urge anyone who has information about any theft in the area to report the matter to police for investigation.

“Residents should not take matters into their own hands.”

Police have been criticised online for not doing enough to tackle the problem, with online commentators saying where the law was failing they were willing to stand guard.

But according to police, there was no problem, for no animals have actually been taken. And those feared gangs of canine thieves are little more than cyber fairies.

Much of the fear was generated through a Facebook site known as ‘Dog Theft Tracking Australia Wide’, where messages like – “Trying to verify this information but it needs to get out there now…2 dogs just stolen from a park in Wonthaggi Victoria by a man in a white Holden rodeo 4 door Ute with 2 cages on the back.” – were cranking up panic.

The site deleted a warning sent from The Star, via local police, which debunked the rumour of dogs being stolen. While the site was happy to fan the fears that were running red hot throughout South Gippsland, it was not ready to listen to reason.

Police believe much of the impetus for the story came from within Leongatha. Last week The Star picked up on a Facebook posting from a town resident who claimed her dog was targeted by two men posing as police.

The paper put the comments on its own Facebook site, with the amount of ‘hits’ pushing past 45,000 on Monday. It’s no understatement to say the tale/tail went viral.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=8414

Posted by on Sep 3 2013. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Police claim dog theft hoax”

  1. […] Concerns about dog thieves have been raised elsewhere in Gippsland, however reports in South Gippsland have been labelled a hoax. […]

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