Reports that Facebook posts are being used to sell litters of kittens as bait for fighting dogs is being investigated by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but there is uncertainty about whether the images are valid or some type of hoax.
The news story out of Liverpool was reported by the Mirror, Daily Mail, Metro and other news outlets. “Any reports of animals being used to attack other animals are extremely disturbing and anyone with information should contact us,” the RSPCA told the Daily Mail. The story is making headlines not long after Smurf the kitten was found dyed purple and suffering from bite wounds. The Nine Lives Foundation veterinarians who examined Smurf said he was likely used as “a chew toy.”
The article in the Daily Mail included what look to be screenshots from the Facebook pages in question and had this to say: “One of the disturbing adverts showed a dog with its teeth wrapped around a cat’s head, which is captioned: ‘Got some now, anyone want to put a bet on who wins?'” the Daily Mail reported. Another carried this unsettling remark: “Will have a litter ready for Christmas (dog bait),” and was accompanied by pictures of a white cat.
While online images of abuse of cats and dogs have sometimes proven to be faked, this particular report is being taken seriously. “The RSPCA believes that the kitten sellers hide behind pseudonyms, often posing as women, but are acting as part of a bigger network,” according to the Daily Mail. Gray market users of Facebook can close a suspect account and quickly reopen under a new name to avoid detection. Many animal welfare groups in the United States have issued warnings against placing “free to good home” online classified advertisements on Craigslist and in newspapers offering to give away animals that may end up being abused or sold to laboratories by shady animal dealers, as reported here and elsewhere.
“Web sales of animals are downright dangerous, as PETA US’ cruelty investigators can attest,” Elisa Allen of PETA UK told Metro.co.uk. “These animals are vulnerable and it’s hard to ensure that they are headed to responsible, loving homes where they will receive proper care.”
Kittens and puppies are routinely bought and sold by individuals who exploit and abuse them, said Heather Prescott, identified by the Daily Mail as a trustee of the Rescue Me charity in Crosby. “People asked us to help with homing their kittens but, by the time we get there, somebody will have already bought all of the litter. They sell a story that rescue centers aren’t doing a good job, they take the kittens as a job lot and sell them for quite a serious profit.”
Readers began posting their comments, in which they expressed their outrage, and also their doubts about the nature of some of the images. “I like to think there is a special place in hell for these people,” said one poster. “Disgusting,” said another.” But others were dubious. “Are you sure about this?” Several said that one photo that was displayed actually depicted a dog playing with a cat companion. “Anyone who knows dogs will tell you that dog in the pic knows that cat.”