Are Dogs Being Used as Shark Bait?

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?

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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.

Above 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.

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  • Jeroen

    Nice way to give your website a boost with people that follow the hype and don’t question the story. The people at 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • Jerry Davis

    This is not the first photo that I’ve seen of animals impaled with fish hooks to use as live bait. The animals do not impale themselves as some of these morons would like to think. These cowardly bastards need to be used as shark bait themselves and they would think differently. I would love to go there and hook a few of them up and take some photos of them to distribute to all their relatives and then see how many sharks I could catch using live French and Mexicans as live bait. If anyone thinks I’m blowing smoke then realize I spent 10 years in places like southern Mindanao dealing with the NPA guerillas. These two bit cowardly punks would be a cake walk for me. I love animals but I treat them with kindness as they bond to you and will protect you and love you unconditionally. People that do not or cannot care for an animal do not and should not even be around them. These people that harbor and keep wild animal need to put them back where they came from instead of imprisoning them for their own self gratification. Anyone that has enough guts can come to me and debate any of these matters and we will see who wins.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • Greg

    what irritates me, I was on a friends (who is from Croatia)facebook page, and this petition was listed in such a way to make it sound as if it was wide spread. Mentioning Mexico The united states and France. It is a hoax when they do that…This happened on some French island, not in the USA. We are dog lovers here. The incident is isolated, and was never a wide spread trend amongst fishermen. Anytime some pervert does something sick and twisted, the good ol USA gets thrown in for bad measure. I could bet that with PETA here….People would get less time in prison and a smaller fine for using human babies for shark bait…Im sure they would be sooner forgiven as well.

  • carol ebson

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

  • autos88

    Ill just say this what makes you think people wouldn’t be that cruel? I’ve seen dogs being skinned alive to kittens being burnt in trash cans. We are the only creatures on this planet that get a kick out of watching something suffer. I wouldn’t put it past people to hook helpless animals to fishing lines and be left to die. WAKE THE F-CK UP!! or actually do YOUR homework and watch what we do to these confused, frightened creatures. Because when you actually see what happens, you will believe that humans a capable of doing anything.