FAKE social media reports have sparked public panic over a supposed organised dog abduction ring targeting pets around Frankston and the peninsula.
Police have moved to allay fears that beloved pets were being stolen from Frankston and peninsula homes to be used in, or as bait for, illegal dog fights, as reported in widely circulated Facebook postings.
“It’s all fake. It’s simply not happening,” a Victoria Police spokesman said. “We have investigated this thoroughly and can confirm there’s absolutely no substance to the reports.”
Police have been swamped with reported sightings of a White Toyota ute and other “suspicious activities” allegedly connected the theft of dogs and illegal dog fighting.
However, only four dogs had been reported as being stolen across the entire Frankston and Mornington Peninsula region since the beginning of the year, and all of these have been confirmed as having nothing to do with dog fighting, police said.
A report that had been posted on the official Victoria Police Facebook site and appears to have “gone viral” carries an identikit image of a man it says police wish to speak over dog abductions and an “illegal dog fighting ring in a Seaford factory”.
“The man was last seen is Seaford, also Frankston North. Anyone with information or has seen this man please call Crime Stoppers,” the Facebook posting reads.
But the image was from a separate, unrelated incident and the entire substance of the posting had been made up, police said.
An earlier report, also posted on Facebook, warns that: “Dogs on the peninsula are being stolen for fighting. They are going missing daily …”
It goes on to outline a well-worn internet myth that has popped up in cities and town across the world regarding organised criminal operations stealing pets for use in dog fights.
The cruel criminals allegedly use spotters to apply colour-coded tags or stickers to mark houses where dogs live, so that later, “the thieves can drive around and take dogs when nobody is home”, according to the recent peninsula Facebook warning.
“Yellow ties are for staffies/mastiffs ect and blue form smaller/old dogs that are used for bait.
“Keep an eye out for a Toyota ute with dog cages on the back and if you see anything suspicious, please call the police. They are aware of what’s happening.”
But police are certainly not aware of any such activity and have been forced to deal with an increasing number of inquiries and reports from members of the public, including multiple sighting of the Toyota vehicle allegedly involved.
“This is taking up a lot of police time and resources and causing great concern in the community, so we really want to get the word out to the public that there’s been no such activities and the area,” the Victoria Police spokesman said.
“This is the problem with social media. Well-meaning people get easily sucked in by reports like this and want to share it around. But once you share it on your page, your friends then share it and very quickly it goes from 10 to 100 to 1000 to 10,000 and sometimes over million.
“We’d ask Facebook users to circulate the news that the dog theft story is nothing but a myth. We’d also suggest people maybe Google reports like this sort of thing to try to ascertain their validity before sharing it online with more people.”