MEMPHIS, Tennessee — The puppy at the center of a controversial viral video is alive. The dog and the man who is believed to be his owner were at a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown, Memphis Wednesday night. People at the protest played with the puppy, who appeared to be healthy.
Sunday night —while a Local 24 News crew was broadcasting live on the protests sparked by recent police violence against African Americans— a group of men came up behind our reporter. One man lifted a dog up by the scruff of its neck.
Since then, disinformation about the fate of the dog and how the owner obtained it has circulated widely on social media. Rumors and misinformation on social media have included everything from claims that Local 24 live streamed the death of the dog to rioters stole the puppy from a rescue group and strangled it.
More than 100,000 people signed a change.org petition asking for a “maximum sentence for man who tortured [a] dog on live news in Memphis, TN.”
One woman even offered a cash reward to bring the man to justice. Animal activists released the name, address and number of a person who they believed was responsible. That prompted animal activists from all over the U.S. to target and threaten the wrongly accused man.
However, the dog is not dead.
After the Sunday night incident, Local 24 News notified Memphis Police and Memphis Animal Services. MAS released a statement saying in part, “Anytime there are concerns about the welfare of a pet in Memphis, it is our job at Memphis Animal Services to investigate, and we will always do so. We too were concerned about the way the dog was handled in the video, but we have received no information about who the man in the photos/videos is. If someone does have information about the dog or the man in the photos, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can conduct a welfare check. The man has not been identified.”
Legal experts say while "scruffing" a dog may be disturbing and it's not the preferred way to pick up a dog, it's not illegal in Tennessee. If you feel that the law be should changed, contact your local elected officials.