Written by: Heather Clemenceau
The internet has a long tradition of baiting and misleading the inattentive. There are now so many fake petitions on the internet and Facebook that we can hardly debunk all of it. So I’m rounding up the most recent and egregious examples of fake animal petitions with outright false info and misleading headlines that I hope you won’t share. YouSignAnimals, Petitionhub, Kim’s Petitions, Signatures4Life, and Best Animal Petitions (and many others that have morphed into prominence) are probably all getting money for clicks or money for valid email addresses. At the very least, they often give the impression that there are no laws or animal activists fighting for the rights of animals in countries around the world.
Initially, I signed these as well, and although I can’t prove it, the recent influxes to my email account of Bank phishing spam and “lawyers” acting on behalf of wealthy Nigerian princes *may* be tied to the harvesting of my email. Anyone have a similar observation? How to stop this endless circle-jerk? I’ve also left Facebook groups where the majority of posts consist of circulating these bogus petitions.
Lies, Damn Lies, And Viral Content
YouSignAnimals internet domain was registered in August 2014, and they often brag about victories for animals that occurred BEFORE they even registered their domain name or had a presence on Facebook. They give animal advocates the false impression that these petitions serve any useful purpose.
Here are some examples of victories claimed by these groups and their counterparts. In some cases it’s difficult to provide backup for the claims on the original petitions because they are removed from the internet within a few weeks after launch.
Example #1 – Reinstatement Of Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant
Recall the facts surrounding the suspension of Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant from British Columbia – he refused to kill two orphaned bear cubs. YouSignAnimals claims that their petition was responsible for him being reinstated to his original job. Unfortunately he did not get his initial job back; the latest news was that the conservation officer was transferred to another office, according to an article from August 28, 2015. The ONLY petition quoted in the media which did make a difference, which may have afforded Mr. Casavant a paid suspension, was the one on Change.org with over 300K signatures. This is the petition with real targets that went straight in the mail boxes of officials in British Columbia. How can YouSignAnimals, who seem to have removed all references to Mr. Casavant, show that their petition made any difference?
Example #2 – Cat Killer Michael Patrick Stackhouse
Cat killer Michael Patrick Stackhouse, admitted to stomping on a cat that he had thrown into the street, and killed it in front of children and neighbours. He rejected a plea deal that would have reduced his sentence if he plead guilty to a charge of animal cruelty causing death. He was sentenced in November 2014, three months after YouSignAnimals.org was registered as a domain. Although there are a few articles in the media, none of them mention any petition which might have influenced the outcome. Most petitions targeting Police/Prosecutors/Judges are being written long after these cases are being deferred to justice and basically ask them to do what they are already doing based on the local laws. So there is no evidence that YouSignAnimals or its counterparts had any influence on the outcome here as they have claimed.
Example #3 – Rescue Of Raju The Abused Elephant
Raju is another example of a victory falsely claimed by YouSignAnimals. For years, international organizations and foundations fought hard to achieve this victory. Some 30 police officers became involved in the rescue, and along with a determined team from the Elephant Conservation and Care Center in Mathura (ECCC) they were finally able to free him. Here is a petition from Change.org with almost 500,000 signatures. The Care2 community was also responsible for over 75,000 signatures to free Raju. So let’s please give credit where credit is due.
Example #4 – Dog Fighting In MDAS Shelter
YouSignAnimals presented a petition claiming that the Miami-Dade Animal Shelter (MDAS) staff were willingly allowing dogs to fight each other, right inside the facility. The petition accused Director Alex Munoz and Chief of Operations Kathleen Labrada of fighting the dogs as well as poor medical care, and falsification of public records. This too was a blatant fraud, accusing innocent people of dog fighting. These graphic and shocking pictures are not even taken from MDAS, but are from the Hesperia Animal Shelter. Once again there is a Change.org petition that relays the actual facts. Someone at YouSignAnimals has been scavenging pictures from all over the internet and using them to create fictitious stories to post to their advantage to get you to give up your email.
Example #5 – Pet Tattooing In New York
YouSignAnimals again credited itself with victory against dog tattooing and piercing in New York in 2015. But success had already been declared in December 2014 and the story was widely covered in the media including the New York Post and Time. “It’s simply cruel,” said Assembly member Linda Rosenthal in the New York Post. The Manhattan Democrat sponsored the legislation. It was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A Care2 Petition with over 200,000 signatures had a live target and may have had some influence as well.
Example #6 – Brazilian Ban On Cosmetic Tests With Animals
YouSignAnimals claimed victory for the Brazil ban on cosmetic testing for animals. The only problem was that the Cruelty-Free Brazil campaign welcomed passage of Bill 6602/13 to ban testing – in June 2014 – two whole months before YouSignAnimals was even registered as a domain on the internet!
To perpetuate these petitions, one person created all of these Facebook pages – he goes by the name of Nigel Cameron (most likely an alias). Some of these sites don’t even contain petitions, but readers are asked to “support these adoptions by adding your name to our list.” Seriously? Ask yourself how that is supposed to help animals – it helps Nigel Cameron, or whoever he really is, grab your email address!
Example #7 -Texas shelter EUTHANIZES all animals because they didn’t want to come in over the holidays!
Yousignanimals claimed that the Hamilton Texas animal shelter announced on their Facebook page that animals at the shelter had been euthanized because employees were unwilling to come and take care of them during the holidays. Of course this is a flat-out lie too, and a google search of the image used in the petition reveals that it is at least 5 years old and not representative of this shelter at all. As a result, people are spamming their Facebook page with negative comments!
Sensational Stories Have A Tendency To Spread Faster Than The Truth…
While many of these petitions outline abuses that actually happened, they are sometimes years old (ancient technology used to capture the videos is a clue). In other cases, the facts have been altered or there are fact-based petitions receiving wider circulation on the internet with live rather than obscure targets or no targets at all. How can we expose these imposters once and for all?
In addition, all these sites are hosted on Godaddy, which is owned by a trophy hunter (Bob Parsons) who not only killed an elephant and bragged about it, but is a “valuable”member of Safari Club International. I don’t definitively know what they are doing with our emails but I’m sure they wouldn’t go to all this trouble unless they were making money from the suffering of animals and the naiveté of people. Consider that while animal advocates are wasting time signing and forwarding completely fictitious petitions, real, active petitions are ignored. Some animal pages on Facebook contain little else beyond these fake petitions and if the administrators of these pages are going to allow these petitions, then animal advocates should leave the groups and join more productive pages. Virtually all the complaints I’ve made about these petitions have fallen on deaf ears.
So far, the snowballing viral effect of fake petitions seems to be sufficient to crush debunking voices. Please consider whether there is a legitimate petition already available with more power and credibility next time you see a YouSignAnimals or PetitionHub/Kim’s Petitions (who is Kim anyway?) Even if there are no other active petitions available, in many cases the facts are completely wrong or the case is years old and already resolved (but resuscitated for email harvesting).
I’m sure there are dozens if not hundreds more examples where Nigel Cameron has claimed responsibility for victories for animals. It is unacceptable for these sites to crown themselves with victories achieved with so much hard work by major international, national and local organizations, associations, foundations, grassroots rescuers, etc, which they do not even have the decency to mention.