Fact Check

Was a Chinese Restaurant in Florida Shuttered for Serving Dog Meat?

A fake news site recycled an ancient urban legend about Chinese restaurants secretly serving dog meat.

Published Dec. 29, 2016

A Chinese restaurant in Coral Springs, Florida was busted serving dog meat.

On 21 December 2016, several questionable articles appeared, all of which reported that a "China Chow" restaurant in Coral Springs, Florida was shut down by authorities after it was discovered the restaurant was serving dog meat:

“China chow restaurant” located on sample and riverside,in coral springs,Florida was shut down Tuesday after an undercover cop went inside and purchase dog meat, A special menu the restaurant was selling to VIP Customers. It all started after the server gave the dog meat to the wrong customer.The client was disgusted by the dog food. The customer later reported it to coral springs PD, they then setup an undercover operation for two months,that brought “china chow restaurant to justice” saving the life of innocent dogs. They were also slaughtering the dogs in the back of the restaurant, In a sound proof Room, Customers would never hear the dogs barking.

Coral springs spokes person “David Cunningham” advice civilians to report any suspicions Chinese restaurants to law enforcement.

The claim was yet another version of an age-old urban legend holding that Chinese restaurants regularly serve foods that are unpalatable or taboo to Westerners, rumors that have been in circulation for more than a century. As repeatedly noted in deconstructions of this perennial myth, it serves as a socially acceptable manner by which to voice doubt about the trustworthiness of unfamiliar or exotic cultures:

This legend is a classic example of xenophobia (fear and hatred of foreigners or that which is foreign). Asian culture is markedly different from Western culture, with language but the first barrier to be hurdled. Customs, religious observances, traditions — all are wildly different from their North American counterparts. As with all xenophobic reactions, that which isn't the same is vilified. The Asian culinary practice of making a tiny bit of meat stretch to feed a family by cutting it up fine and making it part of a larger dish of vegetables or noodles is transformed by fear into a vehicle for "them" to slip something objectionable into our unwitting stomachs. Likewise, that the Chinese don't as a rule keep cats and dogs as pets becomes seen as a willingness to plop someone else's animal companion into the stew pot. Anything for a buck, says this legend, and if in the process one puts over on the white devils, so much the better.

Another common element of urban legends about the wealthy is their appetite for immoral, decadent, or horrifying pursuits (presumably having exhausted entertainment avenues open to the masses). The claim touched on that idea with the suggestion that "VIPs" primarily sought out a menu of housepets in their Chinese food ordering habits.

One indicator that the story was not credible was that its image was published to the web as early as 2013, and was not associated with a December 2016 incident involving China Chow in Coral Springs. A larger second clue came from a since-deleted Facebook post published by the official Coral Springs Police page:

FAKE NEWS STORY - CHINESE FOOD RESTAURANT: We have received several private messages and tweets about this story circling the internet. This is a FAKE news story. As a reminder, always read and check the source before sharing, commenting or liking these stories. A few tell tale signs in this story: Coral Springs, roadways, and the restaurant name is lowercase (no good journalist would lowercase streets, cities or businesses or misspell several words); also what is gummypost.com; not a credible news source. As a matter of fact their headlines read: 15 scariest people that exist (with a half woman/half animal photo) and celebrities that turned ugly in just a few years (with Photoshop images of celebrities).

As Coral Springs Police noted, several elements of the story proved questionable, and the local law enforcement agency itself labeled the claim "fake news" and not an ongoing investigation. No credible outlet reported the claim, and its status as a very old urban legend further indicated it was no more than a tired hoax.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.