Hoaxes & Rumors

Live Dogs Used as Shark Bait: Real or Fake?

Live Dogs Used as Shark Bait: Real or Fake?

Rumors of live dogs being used as shark bait accompany a photo of a dog with fish hooks in its mouth and nose. Are the claims true, and is this photo real?

Online Rumor

Here is one caption that accompanied the once 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!

The Story is True and the Photo is Real

Sadly, this story is true, and the photo is apparently not a fake, but it happened several years ago on the French-controlled Réunion island and doesn’t appear to be a widespread practice.

National Geographic reported on this story on October 19, 2005 in an article entitled Dogs Used as Shark Bait on French Island“. The popular photo was linked in the column as well. According to the editorial, the six-month-old dog in the photo was purportedly someone’s pet that had gone missing, and the animal was successfully treated by a local veterinarian before being returned to the owners. However, most “baiting” stories involved the use of stray dogs, as stray dogs on the island were viewed as “vermin” by many locals.

The French embassy referred to the incidents as isolated and illegal, yet the write-up stated that animal rights activists in France claimed it was happening “almost every week”.

The story was again reported two years later on August 3, 2007 in a story by The Sun. The same photo of the dog with the fishhook through its snout was included. Although it has since changed, The Sun article once 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. This article is now archived in French and users must pay to read it, but a link to the supposed article can still be found here. The National Geographic article also reported a 51-year old man who was fined $5982.00 for a similar abuse, though the man claimed the dog was accidentally injured by a trap he had set to keep animals away from his chickens.

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.

Bottom Line

The rumor of live dogs being used as shark bait was apparently real, and the photo accompanying such claims also appears to be authentic. According to a 2005 article in National Geographic, using stray dogs as shark bait was a limited practice on Réunion island, but it was not widespread. At least one man on the island was found guilty of animal cruelty and paid a fine of nearly $6000. Since the initial report in 2005, the practice of using live stray dogs as shark bait appears to have largely dissolved, and no recent instances have been reported.

Updated November 23, 2014
Originally published September 2012

  • Lee Wells

    This just reinforces my belief that France is a nation of self righteous anal retentive pricks.

  • carol ebson

    I would like to put a hook through there nose and dangle them insane people

  • Neal Espeseth

    Your expertise could be used in North Carolina where empathy is no longer a word or a meaning.Check out some of the blatant abuse(ASPCA)
    suffered by so many dogs and cats along with farm animals of all kinds. The laws of non cruelty do not seem to apply there.

  • laila larsen

    It happened in 2005 and 2007 – the storyes and pictures you are been send or that are refered to – after 2 houers web search – nothing of this kind of action is found.. BUT that doesn’t mean, it should be taken as a sign of; either it is going on – or not… So keep searching for any evidence.. Bless to all who are allert and try to see if they can be part of stopping ANY cruelty to those who have not a voice we can see or hear.. namaeste L.

  • waffles

    Great comment Jerry. It’s quite hard to believe that a dog would walk into a trap and somehow impale his mouth and paws in such a way.

  • Judy Byrd

    The most recent petition and email circulating now says American fisherman only. People need to quit embellishing and frightening people over untrue events and stories. It takes away from the real and true needs of pet animals, wildlife, and food stock animals.

  • Hannah

    And it worked, what I wanted to say was…
    I was lead to read up on these articles after somebody posted a link on my facebook page to sign the petition on causes.com. After reading them I do think they are true, but what I’m stuck with is if it is still happening? It says on this site that it was happening in 2005 and 2007, and the 2 articles on the national geographic and the sea shephard website are also dated back to 2005… Does anybody know if it is still happening or not?

    • Morgainele

      Excellent question. I am trying to determine the same thing. please keep me posted if you find out more, as will I (perhaps another comment answers this but I have only gotten this far 😉 Anyway, I am glad some people are asking questions, as there are enough current cases of animal cruelty -*not about this – that do NEED attention NOW and I hate to think that some old news that isn’t still relevant MAY be diverting attention from current problems. Not saying this isn’t current…just that I am NOT clear on it

      Also, I am a staunch animal rights activist, but I find it incredibly annoying and frustrating to see a good percent of the online petitions I see on valid issues, are not directed to any person who will even receive let alone take action on the issue! I keep posting links to the legislative process,- I explain they can’t just send a letter to the governments of XYZ and expect it will land anywhere useful. I give links to how to craft a proposal and get a bill introduced for congressional vote nationally or places on the ballot at state level. Very few even notice. I am disturbed because without actual links to the actions that can move things forward, the most that can be said about the petitions like that is they raise awareness, and at worst result in useless hand wringing, and fist pumping to no one…while making people THINK they just did something to help. It makes a mockery out of any valid online activism.

  • Lester

    Thanks Jo-Anne! You’re right, the story does appear to be true although I had doubts too, mostly because I REALLY didn’t want to believe people could be that cruel. I have NEVER known National Geographic to print or post a story they hadn’t verified completely though. Something else NEEDS to be said here too. All the outrage by people in the posts saying that OTHERS didn’t do their research are by people who themselves didn’t do ANY research other than reading the article here and MISREADING it! Even this website does NOT say the story IS a hoax; it says they couldn’t confirm it so it is being classified under Hoaxes & RUMORS. Just because something is a rumor does NOT make it untrue. And the claim by some that they KNOW it’s a fake because there are no barbs on the fishhooks is more proof that they themselves didn’t do their homework. ANYONE can do a Google image search for “barbless fishing hooks” in just a few seconds and you will find many, MANY pictures of fishhooks that have NO barbs. So if you want to complain about others not doing their research you BETTER do your own! Or keep your mouth shut! OR risk being sued for slander. By the way, for the brainless people who were so outraged, did you even bother to watch the video THIS website posted above about the story? If you did you would have seen VIDEO that was NOT Photoshopped!

    • Troll?

      Why ARE you TALKING like THAT?

  • DT

    +1 Jeroen. I received a link from a friend I thought knew better than to not research these stories and ‘knee-jerked’ into signing the petition. Now I’ve done what I should have done and looked into it myself. Gotta say I feel a little foolish, and a tad angry!

  • Jeroen

    Nice way to give your website a boost with people that follow the hype and don’t question the story. The people at causes.com that put this story online abuse good peoples good faith and should be ashamed of themselves. If it is an honest mistake they should at least check their source.

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