A post on Facebook claims a photograph shows an unchipped dog that has been found in Watton, Norfolk. The post, which asks for help finding the owner, has been shared over 2,000 times.
The same photo with similar text has also been shared hundreds of times in local groups for Warrington, Plymouth, Exeter, York and Lincolnshire, amongst others.
It says: “Hello, I haven’t found the owner of this sweet girl we picked up on the road in 📍Watton. She’s really depressed and she’s not eating. We took her to the vet she’s not chipped. Please Bump this post and help me fine the owner [sic]”.
There is no evidence that the dog pictured has been found in these locations. Although Full Fact was not able to find the original source of the picture, many other posts with similar text and the same picture have also been shared on Facebook, claiming the dog has been found in other locations both around the UK, and in other countries including Australia, the US and Canada.
These posts all have the comments turned off to prevent people from questioning them, which can be an indication that a post is a hoax. They also use similar language to previous posts we’ve checked in the past that have used other people’s images to claim they are looking for the owners of lost dogs.
Derbyshire Police has previously warned that comments being disabled is a clue such a post may be a hoax, as someone looking for information would not turn off comments.
Full Fact has written many times before about hoax posts, such as reports of missing children, abandoned infants or injured dogs.
Hoaxes pose a risk to user engagement with local community news because groups can become overwhelmed with false information. As a result, genuine posts may be ignored or dismissed as false.
We have written to Meta expressing these concerns and asking the company to take stronger action in response to this problem.
Image courtesy of Jonas Leupe