Fact Check

Abandoned Puppies

Can you help abandoned puppies find homes by circulating their plea on the Internet?

Published May 30, 2003


Claim:   Abandoned puppies shown in an Internet-circulated photo need homes.


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

This past weekend my husband found near a trash bin 9 cute puppies that were left to die of starvation. He could not leave them there to die so he brought them home hoping we could find a home for them. They are about two weeks old and I am not sure what type of dog they are, but they are cute black and brown puppies. If you or anyone you know is interested in taking a puppy please let me know. We will be taking care of them for this week only and then taking them to the pound.

Maria M. Alvarez
Design Engineer



Origins:   Sometimes even when the causes are real, the inherently nebulous nature of pleas forwarded on the Internet renders them all but useless. This is the story of a group of puppies whose plight and rescue were real, but who will now continue to exist in the minds of many as just having been pulled from a dumpster "this past weekend" and still in desperate need of good homes. ("This past weekend" and other time-specific terms we normally use to place events within a frame of context lose meaning in cyberspace, where such pleas live on for years.)


the time issue, most often e-mailed entreaties omit contact information, leaving the majority of those intent upon coming to the rescue frustrated in their efforts. This e-mail included several photos of the dogs, some displaying individual puppies, some showing the litter as a group (one of which we've chosen to display with this article). Though touched by the series of photos, those who would have opened their homes and their hearts to the dogs were hamstrung because they did not know how to reach the couple temporarily caring for the litter, let alone what city (or even what country) the dogs were in. There was little else to go on other than the knowledge that a design engineer named Maria Alvarez was seeking homes for the group.

Larry Powell of the Dallas Morning News performed the herculean task of tracking the e-mail back to the originator. The entreaty to help find homes for the abandoned puppies was penned by Maria Alvarez of Pasadena, California, on 28 April 2003 but wasn't intended for a large audience — she circulated it to only a handful of family members and friends. By the next day, all the puppies had found homes.

Yet the puppies' change in circumstance did not halt the spread of the plea to come to their aid. Maria's e-mail circulated beyond the small group she'd sent it to and was posted to the online community www.craigslist.org on 1 May, two days after the puppies' situation had been resolved. From there it spread farther, landing in one inbox after another as concerned pet lovers everywhere fretted over the fate of the young dogs pictured in the series of


Many of the forwards had long since parted ways with Maria's contact information (the original listed her phone number), but enough of them survived intact that she and her family have been inundated with calls about the dogs:

She said she was surprised to find responses from outside her circle of acquaintances. "I got over a hundred responses — maybe 200 — at my work. My husband got another 50 or 100 at home."

Those who continue to be moved by the sorry fact that these puppies were left to die should give serious thought to adopting other equally needy pets from their local shelters. That these nine found homes doesn't mean there aren't so many others who won't and who will instead be put down after waiting for loving new owners that never come along. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), each year up to 60% of dogs and up to 70% of cats that enter shelters will die because there is no one to adopt them. Animal People, an independent publication based in Washington state, estimates the number of dogs and cats destroyed in 2001 was 4.4 million. That these critters weren't left in dumpsters doesn't make their plight any less awful nor their need any less great. Petfinder.com will help you find dogs and cats in your neighborhood who are available for adoption and who need good owners every bit as much as the nine puppies pictured above did.

Barbara "help save a friend" Mikkelson

Update:   In September 2007 the following adoption appeal for black labrador puppies began circulating:

Forwarded from a friend - please forward to anyone you know that may be able to help or is interested in adopting.

Scott rescued 6 black lab (mix) puppies out of the middle of the road on Saturday. PLEASE help me find them homes - otherwise, it's Animal Control - which means they only have 5 days. We've bathed them, sprayed them for fleas and wormed them....but we can't keep them. They are currently in a kennel in my basement since I don't have a fence. I've lost count of the number of rescue groups that I've contacted, only to be turned down due to no room. Please check with every dog person you know to see if they need a puppy.

I have attached a picture of them — if I could take them all I would do so in a heartbeat, however, I am unable to do so with a dog and cat already in my home. If you know anyone that is looking for a puppy — especially a black lab, please let me know.

Also, if you could forward this to others, I’d really appreciate it.


This appears to have been a genuine appeal that began as a Craigslist posting, but although the person whose name and phone number were listed on the earliest e-mailed versions has stated that all puppies have since been adopted, the same message and picture continue to be forwarded with a number of different names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and locations now attached to them.

The labrador puppies appeal was quickly followed in October 2007 by one about 40 beagle puppies needing homes:

Alza Corporation, a Johnson & Johnson Company, is closing their Mountain View, CA. facility.

The animal test facility has 40, 16 month old beagle puppies that need good loving homes. These dogs were NEVER tested.

If you know of anyone, a rescue or are interested in helping give these puppies homes, please contact Rick Bible at: azoulaybible@hotmail.com

The facility manager will have to put them to sleep if no homes are found by OCTOBER 15TH!!

Thanks for your help!!!


But ALZA said the message was a misunderstanding, and that they had no puppies up for public adoption:

Unfortunately, inaccurate and misleading information has been circulating on the Internet about ALZA's plans for dogs housed at its campus. There is no public adoption program. The animals will be properly cared for and relocated to a different facility when ALZA closes at the end of the year. We regret this unfortunate misunderstanding and appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Last updated:   4 August 2011


    Powell, Larry.   "E-mail Plea Spreads."

    The Dallas Morning News.   24 May 2003   (p. 40).