Belleville Police say an Internet claim of animal abuse in the city that caused horrified residents to call to the department to demand the poster be caught and prosecuted was nothing more than an Internet hoax.
According to Capt. Don Sax, police began receiving calls Monday evening about a disturbing post on the Craigslist website. The item showed a Belleville date line with a graphic photo of a dog that had been shot which included the caption "5:30 in the morning is not time to hear your dog barking. A good dog is a quiet dog."
Police began to investigate the post and discovered Tuesday morning a news article posted in Australia in December 2011 that used the same photo as in the Craigslist post.
"The Craigslist poster's identity is unknown," Sax said. "There is no known connection between this post and the city of Belleville. Belleville Police take all reports of animal cruelty seriously and investigate them with urgency. The department encourages anyone who has information on animal cruelty or abuse occurring in the city of Belleville to contact police."
The Australian photo turned out to be from a story about a man who discovered a wounded dog -- which had to eventually be euthanized despite his efforts to save it. The write-up included a picture of the man showing a photo he took of the dog on his cellphone.
Jim Jaquot, Director of St. Clair County Animal Services in Belleville, said his office received a few calls from animal rescue organizations concerned about the Craigslist posting. But none from residents.
"They wanted to know if it was true and what we heard about it," Jaquot said. "We have had some cases where sometimes there are aggressive animals that police have had to shoot. But most abuse cases don't typically include gunshots. I don't recall any instance where a resident had shot an animal as part of a neighbors' dispute in my 11 years here."
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 239-2626.