WA Today [Australia]
20 February 2013
Court and crime reporter
The internet has been flooded with chilling tales of an organised underground dog fighting ring operating out of Perth's suburbs.
Family pets have been systematically stolen from their yards to be trained as fighting dogs, according to reports appearing on social media and online classified websites this week.
While many in Perth claim to know somebody who knows somebody whose pet has fallen prey to a kidnapping, authorities and social media experts have dismissed the warnings as a viral hoax.
"No suburb is safe," reads one popular flyer doing the rounds on Facebook and Google+ this week.
Larger breeds would be starved and tormented into brutal fighters, while their smaller counterparts would be used as "bait", according to another popular Facebook post.
An image warning people of a system, in which red squares were put outside homes to alert canine thieves to a potential candidate, was uploaded to Facebook and shared more than 9000 times on Tuesday.
"These red symbols are tags that people stealing Perth dogs are putting on your gates/fences," the post read.
"These tags identify which house has a dog that needs to be collected later that day/night by these disgusting creatures. [...]