Claim: A puppy was killed on live air during a local station's coverage of a Memphis protest.
A Facebook post that has gone viral since it was posted June 5 claims protesters stole a pit bull-mix puppy from a Memphis animal shelter and killed the animal shortly after appearing on live air in late May.
The post also claims that reporters with a Memphis-based broadcast station stood by and observed the animal abuse for the sake of securing a story.
It reads: "So a Twitter report on #Memphis says that rioters/criminals in Memphis broke into the animal shelter and took a dog. A beautiful little bully. Tied an electric cord around its neck and paraded it in the streets in front of news cameras (ABC24) while tossing it around by its neck like a toy. Later the dog was found dead in the street. Strangled. No one stopped them. No news media did anything. NO ONE did ANYTHING. NOW the media is going to get Memphis officials to investigate? You could have stopped this but you didn't because you had to get your story. YOU SHOULD ALL FRY!!!"
The post accrued numerous racist comments and asserts that both the person holding the dog, and the reporters present, should be killed. The post prompted misleading coverage from multiple online media outlets that aggregate original reporting.
USA TODAY has reached out to the Facebook user who made the post for comment.
A petition launched on Change.org calling for maximum prosecution of the man seen on-air was signed by more than 117,000 individuals as of Aug. 21.
Memphis Animal Services found no proof a puppy was stolen, or strangled
Memphis' government agency for animal welfare released a statement in response to the claims of the viral post, explaining that "all we have seen are unsubstantiated claims on social media, generally from people outside of the area, none of whom can trace the information back to the source."
Memphis Animal Services spokeswoman Katie Pemberton acknowledged the shelter was "concerned" about how the dog was being handled on live air, but as of mid-August, had received no reports of a stolen dog matching the description of the puppy seen in the post.
Nor did the shelter receive any reports "that a puppy or dog matching this description was found deceased."
Further, Pemberton said, "We have very strong partnerships with rescue groups in our area, and I speculate that if this happened to any local rescue group, they would have reported it to us."
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Rescue group in Memphis said 'there's no way that happened'
Ranise Coppens, president of Memphis-based animal rescue agency ALIVE Rescue Memphis, refuted the claim the dog was stolen out of a rescue organization in Memphis.
"There's no way that happened," she said.
Coppens explained animal rescue agencies in Memphis work with and communicate with one another daily. If the animal had been stolen from one of the rescue organizations in Memphis, Coppens, as well as other animal rescue workers, would have known about it.
"The only possible way the dog was stolen from a rescue, is if we're talking about a one-person rescue organization that no one has ever heard of," she said.
Reporters at the news station spotted a dog that was likely the same puppy days later
The man holding the puppy was originally seen on Local 24, Memphis' ABC affiliate station during a live broadcast.
Members of the news crew spotted a dog and a man identical to the pair originally seen in the broadcast and posted an updated story, showing a photo of the animal taken on June 3, days after the original spot aired.
The story noted the amount of disinformation shared, including the rumor that the crew showed the dog's strangulation on live air.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, the claim is FALSE. According to interviews with animal welfare organizations both public and private, no dog was reported as stolen from a rescue agency. Further review of Local 24's footage, and social media footage from different angles, show the dog was picked up by the scruff of the neck, and handled in a way that some could see as cruel, but it was not strangled. A photo from June 3 captured by media outlets in Memphis shows an identical dog alive and seemingly in good health.
Our fact-check sources:
Statement from Memphis Animal Services
Interview with Ranise Coppens of ALIVE Rescue Memphis
Local 24 Memphis, "Puppy at center of controversial viral video is alive"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Dog wasn't strangled on live TV during Memphis protest