A hoax which has drifted across the world and throughout New Zealand has now found itself in Nelson.
The story, which has been making the rounds on Facebook recently, is that dog owners should be vigilant as thieves are targeting dog-owning families in the region. They spray paint a mark on bins to supposedly alert their associates to homes which have dogs. They want them either for fighting dogs or “bait”.
“The issue is happening all over New Zealand and it’s definitely happening here,” reads a post that has been widely shared.
Except, there is no evidence that it is.
“We would have had more reports of dogs going missing,” says Nelson SPCA manager Donna Walzl. “I don’t know what it is. It’s scaremongering.”
Donna says it is concerning that people will circulate such misinformation.
“It puts people on edge and makes people concerned. We are all concerned when pets go missing but for this sort of thing? I’ve never seen anything link this.”
The Nelson City Council confirmed that its dog control officers had not seen or heard anything that would suggest the dog thefts were legitimate.
Nelson Weekly sought out people in Nelson who had first- hand experience of seeing marks on their bins or having their dogs snatched, but could find none. Often it was a story they had heard from someone in the neighbourhood or, often, through Facebook.
Several years ago in the United Kingdom and Australia there were reports of similar dog nappings sparked by thieves who supposedly put different coloured stickers or plastic bags close to homes. Police and animal welfare advocates dismissed it as a “viral hoax” that was doing a disservice to communities.
Similar stories popped up in Auckland and Christchurch, sparked by allegations by group Paw Justice which said the dog thefts were happening. Again, the SPCA said there was no evidence.
Nelson Bays Area Commander Matt Arnold-Kelly warns residents to not share false information online.
“Its certainly not helpful and people need to be very dubious on what they read online if it’s not from a reputable source.”
Matt says that if such a situation were occurring within the region, police would post a warning through local media, including their own social media accounts.