Stories of live dogs being used as shark bait on the French-controlled Reunion Island have resurfaced recently, accompanied by a well-known photo of a labrador retriever pup with fish hooks in its mouth and nose. Is there any merit to this claim, and is the photo real?
The story is true, but it happened several years ago and doesn’t appear to have been widespread.
Here is one current caption accompanying the popular photo:
We have to stop this PLEASE help!
French Islanders using live puppies and kittens as shark bait??
Please stop this senseless abuse to innocent puppies and kittens. French Islander and Mexican fishermen are using LIVE puppies and kittens as shark bait!! No living being should have to undergo…
Because this is horrendous and hideous. Can you imagine the fear these animals must be in the last minutes of their lives? No living being deserves to be treated and used this way. These are private fishermen and the penalty is ONLY 2 years and a monetary fine we want the penalty to be stiffened to deter this horrific crime!
A National Geographic reports on this from an October 19, 2005 article entitled “Dogs Used as Shark Bait on French Island.” The popular photo was linked as well. In the article we find that the dog in question was purportedly someone’s pet, but most “bait” stories included stray dogs. This is because stray dogs on the island were viewed as “vermin” by many locals.
The French embassy referred to the incidents as isolated and illegal, though animal rights activists in France claimed it was happening “almost every week” according to the article.
The story was again reported two years later on August 3, 2007 in a story by The Sun. The same photo of a dog with a fishhook through its snout was included. That article stated, “The pup was found in a coastal creek and is thought to have somehow freed itself from a fishing line.”
A local paper originally reported on 9/30/2005 that a 50-year old man had been sentenced to two years in prison for animal cruelty. The National Geographic article reported a 51-year old man who was fined $5000 for similar abuse, though the man claimed the dog was accidentally injured by a trap he had set.
Though the story continues to circulate, there have been no additional reports of dogs being used as bait in this area after the initial report from 2005.
Below is the original video featuring footage of the dog from the widely-circulated photograph. Some have claimed that it merely shows a dog that was accidentally tangled in fishing equipment, but many conclude that this was done on purpose, and point to fines and jail time served as evidence.