It is amazing what some people are willing to post on social media – it has become a journalist’s dream for finding and researching entertaining or enlightening stories. But sometimes, sadly, it reveals the darker side of humanity. In September 2015 reporters in McLean, Virginia, were scrolling through social media updates looking for their next story when something disturbing caught their eye. Surely such a horrifying post couldn’t be for real? Nevertheless, if they didn’t investigate further, a life could be on the line.
It is a tragic truth that many Americans are forced to give up their pets every year for various – sometimes heartbreaking – reasons. Although it is hard for animal lovers to remain impartial about pets being relinquished, sometimes it is done through bitter necessity. A study carried out in December 2015 confirms as much.
In the report the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) found that more than a million pets are re-homed in the U.S. annually. The charity said relinquishment is most often down to money. “Many pet owners give up their animals due to their economic circumstances,” it stated on its website. Indeed, its findings were quite revealing.
ASPCA said about such owners, “They love their pets, but face financial… challenges that put the necessary care of those animals beyond their reach.” Of course there can be other reasons, but sometimes separation is as heart-rending for humans as it is for their pets. It is desperately sad but sometimes unavoidable.
And relinquishing a pet to a new home or shelter is more responsible than abandonment. However even then there is no guarantee that the fur baby will find another home – or even leave the shelter alive. Objectively, there are no good or bad guys in these cases.
But regrettably there are occasions where people are just plain cruel – they just abandon their animals to the streets. Or even worse, they think their pet is just property to do with as they wish. Which brings us back to that horrifying social media find.
While they were trawling Facebook for material, journalists from the USA Today newspaper made a disgusting discovery and found a new lead. A woman living in the Tyler area in Smith County, Texas, had posted a disturbing request that needed instant attention. Its contents both shocked and sickened the reporters.
USA Today posted a YouTube video on September 19, 2015. The voiceover says, “This is the post the woman wrote, ‘I need someone to come shoot my dog, nobody here has the heart to do it! We will provide the gun!’” Naturally, the journalists feared for the dog’s life.
Although the 39-year-old woman quoted wasn’t publicly named, the video showed a female USA Today reporter doorstepping her property after research had revealed her home address. While they were not able to speak to the woman, the journalist is filmed speaking to her son. However, he refused to get his mother or give any information.
When the reporter asks to talk to his mom, her son is seen saying: “We don’t want no s**t. I don’t want to be rude or anything, but I don’t want this.” The young man also refuses to answer as to why his mother posted the request to shoot her dog, and instead turns abusive.
“I’m not going to talk s***. Just gonna, f***… I know how the media works, you people are the f****** devil,” he says on camera. The reporters may have had no luck with an interview, but happily fortune seemed to be smiling for the poor dog.
A representative from Nicholas Pet Haven animal shelter, based near to the irresponsible dog owner in Texas, had seen the horrific post and turned to social media with a plea for help. “Urgent foster request,” its Facebook message read. “The owner of this dog is threatening to shoot it because it gets into the trash!”
“Is there anyone who can foster this dog so that we can get [her] out of this terrible situation?” Subsequently, animal control officers from Smith County were swiftly dispatched to the woman’s address to check on the dog, a beautiful and blameless three-year-old English bulldog-Saint Bernard cross called Cinnamon.
The officers who came to assess Cinnamon’s situation quizzed the woman about her post. Her response confirmed Nicholas Pet Haven’s Facebook message – she told them that the dog “kept getting into the garbage.” As a result, she claimed that she could not take care of the animal any longer.
Her reasons for wanting Cinnamon dead did little to win over public opinion. “If she couldn’t afford the dog or responsibly train it, she should have never gotten it,” one YouTube commenter wrote under the USA Today upload. “Even if I couldn’t take care of [my dogs], I’d try to find [them] a good home,” another said.
It wasn’t just internet users who were outraged by the woman’s request. Even one of her friends seemed troubled. He told her to calm down, to which the woman replied she was “beyond deep breathing.” Thankfully, she surrendered Cinnamon to the animal control officers without any resistance.
Nevertheless the post sent shockwaves through the animal-lover community, and people were appalled by the woman’s request. Nanette Moss – the Smith County animal shelter co-ordinator at the time – told USA Today how disturbed she was by the whole incident. “It’s devastating,” she said.
“I work with these dogs every day,” she explained. “They are my life, and when [Cinnamon] walked through my door, it just broke my heart. She’s a sweet dog, and how can somebody shoot a sweet dog?” Cinnamon was immediately placed with a foster family.
Furthermore, there would be no repercussions for the woman who posted the shocking request. Smith County officials stated that because the woman surrendered Cinnamon willingly, she would avoid charges. As a result, her name would also be withheld to protect her identity.
As for the fostered dog, a social media update from Nicholas Pet Haven revealed a happy ending. “Cinnamon’s foster mom has decided she is a foster failure,” the post began. “She has fallen in love with her, and is going to give her a forever home. She is a very happy girl now, and knows what LOVE is! She will never be neglected again!”