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. Here 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

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