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‘Dog in a bag’ post highlights need to verify facts on social media

Posted on July 8, 2015 by Taber Times

By J.W. Schnarr
Taber Times

The news that a horrific discovery had been made at the Taber Recycling Facility over the weekend swept through social media, but is proof positive you should take the things you read on the Internet with a grain of salt, say members of Taber Police Service.

Friday night, word began floating around Facebook that a mutilated dog corpse had been discovered at the recycling facility, along with a warning for local residents to watch their pets and their children.

But TPS Cst. Juanita Fudge said after investigating the incident, there is no cause for concern for local residents.

“There is no dog,” she said.

“The public doe not need to be afraid for their pets or their children, as was posted,” she said.

“(The poster) also said the animal was tortured, but I don’t know why they felt that way.”

Fudge explained the Town of Taber collects cardboard from local businesses for recycling at the recycling facility, where the collected recyclables are then sorted by hand.

She said often, people do not put their recycling in the proper places, so garbage often comes in along with the recyclables.

The workers separate the garbage from the recyclables and dispose of it accordingly.

The man who made the discovery is the husband of the woman who posted the message to Facebook, and he has previously found bags of cardboard with blood on it, which Fudge said has been collected from businesses in town that deal with raw meat.

“It’s nothing alarming,” said Fudge. “Maybe some meat departments, or things like that in town. In this case, the bag contained quite a bit of blood. He opened the bag and saw black fur, and assumed it was a dog.”

“It was actually the remains of a butchered cow,” she added.

Fudge said she took photographs and explained to the man what it was he had seen in the bag. However, with over 200 shares on Facebook locally, there was a lot of concern in the community.

“We’re just trying to make it right,” said Fudge.

“We don’t want people to be afraid for their pets or their children, as had been posted. It was nothing of that sort.”

Chief Alf Rudd said TPS has been busy trying to make sure the proper information is available to local residents.

“Jumping to conclusions and then spreading around the community as it has, it’s Chicken Little Syndrome,” he said, referring to the old fairytale about a chicken who runs around the farmhouse telling everyone the sky is falling and causes panic in the other animals.

Fudge said local residents are encouraged to call police anytime they see something that looks threatening or suspicious, and that doing so before posting to social media is a more effective way to deal with the situation.

“The poster and the man who found it never brought it to the attention of the police,” she said. “They immediately went to social media.”

“If it hadn’t come to us through a third party, we would have had no way of knowing about it, and that garbage would have been picked up. I would have no idea if it was or was not a dog.”

The issue highlights the problems with using social media as a primary news source, something police say they have to deal with on a regular basis.

“I’m sure everyone has been told enough that not everything on the Internet is fact,” Fudge said.

‘It’s sometimes been referred to as a colostomy bag of conjecture and rumour,” said Rudd.

“I think this is a good example of that. People are just acting and reacting, rather than taking a proper course of what needs to be done.”

“If you see something suspicious, that’s what we’re for,” he added. “We’re fortunate we did get the bag, otherwise we’re chasing shadows.”

Rudd went on to quote former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

“People are entitled to their opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts.”

“That seems to have happened here,” he added.

“There’s a set of facts that have been assigned to something, but it just was not supported by what is in front of your face.”

Local residents who see or have information on suspicious or illegal activity are encouraged to contact the Taber Police Service at 403-223-8991.

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