A number of hoax posts on Facebook claim that a dog, pictured on what appears to be the forecourt of a petrol station, has been found in different locations around England. These posts have been shared hundreds of times.
Full Fact has seen examples posted in a number of different community “buy and sell” groups on social media, including in Stafford (Staffordshire), Sandhurst (Berkshire), Skelton (North Yorkshire), Redditch (Worcestershire) and Lichfield (Stafforshire).
The posts all feature very similar text, which says in most of the versions we’ve seen: “Hello, I haven't found the owner of this sweet girl we picked up on the road in [location].
“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].”
The posts were all shared between 1 and 3 June. They also all use the same picture of a black dog wearing a harness, sitting on the forecourt of a petrol station. Full Fact has not been able to trace the source of the picture, but there are several signs that these appeals are not genuine.
Most obviously, it’s impossible that the same dog could have been found at the same time in a number of different locations around the country.
Secondly, while we have not been able to find the original picture, it does not appear to have been taken in England, because the petrol pump in the background is branded “Circle K”.
While Circle K operates thousands of locations around the world, there are no petrol stations run by the company in England, Wales or Scotland, meaning the picture could not have been taken in any of the English towns mentioned in the Facebook posts. The same post has also been shared in other Facebook groups, claiming the dog was found in San Diego.
Thirdly, the comments on all the posts have been disabled. This is a common sign that posts like these are hoaxes, as people who are genuinely looking for information are very unlikely to limit the ways in which they can be contacted.
Finally, we have previously checked posts using the same or similar wording but a different picture, suggesting that the authors of the posts are reusing content to share in different community Facebook groups.
We have written many times before about other hoax posts, such as reports of missing children, abandoned infants or missing elderly relatives. We have seen instances in which these sorts of posts are edited later to offer cheap housing, links to surveys or other freebies.
Hoaxes can damage people’s trust in 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.