The website IBuyStrays.com
appeared online in late December 2007 and quickly achieved notoriety. The site purported to represent a business that bought unwanted pets and stray animals and resold them to research labs for animal experimentation.
The creator of IBuyStrays.com publicized the site by posting ads on craiglist message boards throughout the country. The ads read:
Do you have one too many cats? Or maybe a litter of unwanted puppies? I can help you out and put a little money in your pocket.
Provoking Animal Lovers
The content of the site was clearly designed to provoke animal lovers. For instance, it displayed pictures of cute puppies and kittens while simultaneously talking about using those animals for research.
In addition, much of the text on the site was callous in an over-the-top manner:
Are you an individual who regularly finds himself with too many cats and dogs on hand or maybe you're just in need of cash,
Whether you've got a whole unwanted litter of mutts or just one cat that doesn't get along with the rest, Email me and do a good deed. Keep it up and you can earn bonus money for quantity.
You can enjoy their wonderful puppy / kitten stage and then reap a cash reward for having grown such a fine specimen. Start over with a new kitten every six months! Win, Win, and Win!
A Satirical Hoax
Every year tens of thousands of animals are used for animal research. A significant percentage of these animals are supplied by "Class B Dealers." According to the Humane Society, such dealers are licensed to obtain animals from "random sources." These dealers are known for their shady practices, frequently obtaining animals from flea markets, shelters, free-to-good-home ads, and even by stealing pets from backyards.
In February 2007, Senator Daniel Akaka introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act
in the US Senate. The act was designed to end the abuses of this industry by banning Class B dealers. However, the legislation has not yet passed into law.
IBuyStrays.com pretended to be one of these Class B Dealers, but it was actually a satirical hoax, purportedly designed to raise awareness of the Pet Safety and Protection Act.
In line with pretending to be a Class B Dealer, the site urged people to contact their congressmen and encourage them to vote against the act. But, of course, after spending any time at IBuyStrays.com, one is far more likely to support the Pet Safety and Protection Act.
Despite the site's apparent intention to raise awareness of the abuses of the animal-dealer industry, most animal lovers were not sympathetic with the site. Critics
accused the site of trying to stir the emotions of animal lovers for no good purpose.
Critics also noted that the site contained banner ads, and suggested that the creator of the site was simply trying to create controversy in order to attract traffic to the site with the hope of earning ad revenue.
Signs that it's a hoax
IBuyStrays.com contained many of the tell-tale signs of being a hoax website:
- The most obvious sign is the inflammatory nature of the content and the effort to attract attention by posting messages on craigslist. A real animal dealer would presumably want to avoid controversy, not invite it.
- The site is registered anonymously and the "business" does not provide any information about its physical location.
- The site runs third-party advertisements. Most real businesses want to use their site to promote their own products and services... not someone else's.
The tension in our society between animals being viewed as pets, but also as commodities that can be bought, sold, and eaten, is a relatively popular theme amongst hoaxers. For instance, the website PetsOrFood.com
pretends to sell a range of animals "live or ready to eat."
More famously, BonsaiKitten.com
raised the ire of animal lovers by explaining how kittens could be molded into any shape by sealing them inside glass jars. The creators of the site explained that it was a prank designed to satirize "the human belief of nature as a commodity." But this did little to placate outraged animal lovers.
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