Viral tearjerker story of puppy thrown into Rock River debunked by Janesville police
October 16, 2017
It was a story with all the makings of a heartwarming family flick: a heartless owner throws a cute puppy off a bridge into a river, but the brave pup somehow manages to swim shore, where a good Samaritan finds him and turns him over to the Humane Society.
The story went viral when it was shared by the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin on their Facebook page, racking up more than 64,000 views, 2,800 shares, 500 comments and 1,600 reactions by Friday afternoon.
The story also caught the attention of several television news outlets, who reported on the poor puppy's plight and the search for the heartless person who tried to drown him.
There was just one problem with the story: it wasn't true.
Janesville police said Friday that the story was fabricated so the man who owned the 10-month-old terrier mix wouldn't have to pay the $75 surrender fee to the Humane Society animal shelter.
"Since (the incident) was never originally reported to police, an officer obtained the name of the person who turned the dog in and told the story of the puppy being thrown into the river," said Sgt. Dean Sukus of the Janesville Police Department.
"After interviewing that person and other members of the household, it was discovered the story was a fabrication to avoid paying a fee to the Humane Society to surrender the dog."
The dog's owner faces no criminal charges since the dog wasn't actually harmed and the owner only reported the false story to the Humane Society and not the police, Sukus said.
Brett Frazier, the executive director for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, said it's not all that unusual for pet owners to come in with a story to try to avoid the shelter's fee, but this one was among the more creative stories he's heard.
"If it didn't have so many details it probably would have raised some flags," he said. But, he added, "we take in 3,000 pets every years. If we ran every person through the ringer and put them under the bright lights, that's all we'd do."
The $75 fee covers the shelter's costs for taking in pets and making sure they're healthy, but the shelter is always working with people who say they can't afford the cost but still need to find a new home for their animal, Frazier said.
Fewer than 300 people surrendered pets to the Janesville Humane Society in 2016, while more than 2,500 other stray animals made their way through the shelter doors over the course of that year.
As for the unnamed puppy with the unusual backstory, Frazier says he's going to be just fine. Since the Facebook post went online, more than 100 people have expressed interest in giving him a new home. However, the same isn't necessarily true for the other animals in the shelter who need homes just as much, he added.
"Remember that there are hundreds or thousands of pets (in animal shelters) ... who maybe don't have a crazy story, but still need help."
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