Summary: Email petition describes a case in which a dog was deliberately and very badly burned by its owners. It asks recipients to "sign" and forward the message in the hope that the names can be used by the SPCA in the prosecution of those responsible (Full commentary below).
Status: Describes a real case, but the petition is now hopelessly outdated and email petitions are ineffective
Example:(Submitted, November 2008)
Subject: RE: Please, Please sign this
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
I was horrified and shocked to see the article in the Daily Voice
yesterday about Tammy, a dog that had been burnt so badly by her owners.
The owners wanted to punish her for jumping over the wall into the
neighbours place. They fetched her and put her in her kennel and set it
I am not sure how many of you have seen the pictures. As an animal lover
it brought tears to my eyes because she was burnt so badly. The SPCA had
to put her down.
The SPCA have removed the other 2 dogs from these people and are pressing
criminal charges against them. I am therefore appealing to all animal
lovers to please add your name to the petition so that the owners are
given the maximum punishment befitting to them.
I have spoken with the Daily Voice, and we have an agreement that they
will forward the signatures to the SPCA to use in the prosecution of these
people. PLEASE, if you agree, please sign the petition and forward to as
many contacts as possible.
Every 500 signatures, please return to me: [email address removed]
This will then be forwarded to the Daily Voice who in turn will forward it
to the SPCA.
"Signing" and forwarding email petitions will do nothing to help the plight of abused animals
This petition email describes a horrific case in which, a dog named "Tammy", was badly burned by her owners, supposedly to "punish" her for jumping over a wall into her neighbor's yard. The message asks recipients to add their names to the petition and forward it to as many people as possible. It claims that the lists of names will be eventually forwarded to South African animal welfare organization, the SPCA. According to the message, the SPCA will use the petition as an aid in the prosecution of Tammy's owners. Supposedly, adding one's name to the email will help to ensure that those responsible for Tammy's torture will receive the "maximum punishment befitting to them".
Sadly, the case described in the email actually happened. The kennel burning incident occurred in the Western Cape province of South Africa around August, 2006. An article originally published in the Cape Times on August 25th 2006 notes:
A Parow couple are to appear in the Bellville regional court on Friday, charged with burning their dog alive.
If convicted, the pair could face fines of up to R200 000 or two years in prison.
The pitbull, named Tammy, almost died when her owners allegedly tried to set her alight in her kennel. She was so burnt so badly that the SPCA, who had rescued her and the owners' two other dogs, had to put her down.
"She was suffering immensely and there was nothing more we could do for her," said Allan Perrins of the SPCA.
Tammy had burns all over her body: on her face, legs and underbelly, but her eyes were particularly badly damaged.
However, while the incident really happened, "signing" and forwarding this email petition will do nothing whatsoever to see justice done in the case.
Firstly, the petition is now hopelessly outdated. The case has already gone to court and the perpetrator, Raymond Koegelenberg of Parow, was sentenced in late 2007 to 400 hours community service and banned from owning animals for 15 years.
Secondly, even when the case was still pending, the petition email was considered counterproductive by the SPCA. A spokesperson for SPCA parent body, the NSPCA explained the organization's position on the petition in an email to whereisthelove.co.za:
The NSPCA appreciates the sentiments of the people behind this petition. The day Tammy came in there was not a dry eye at the SPCA and it left a very dark cloud over our heads. The fact that people care and have compassion is wonderful. Nevertheless, we plead with everyone to exclude ourselves and if possible (now that this petition is whizzing through cyberspace) not to pass it on.
It could be damaging to the court case.
Calling for a maximum sentence or for punishment before a person has been tried and found guilty can be construed as perverting the course of justice. The SPCA movement was not involved in this petition but if it is sent to us and this face is revealed in Court by the defense, it truly could damage the case.
A petition cannot be used in a prosecution. Even once a person has been found guilty, it could be considered to be pressurizing a judge or magistrate if a petition is submitted, calling for a particular sentence.
Many people around the world are likely to consider community service far too light a sentence for such a crime. However, regardless of how strongly you may feel about this issue, adding your name and forwarding a petition will do nothing at all to help the plight of abused animals.
In general, email petitions are almost totally pointless. Since most such petitions do not record any verifiable details from those adding their names, they are seldom taken seriously by those in authority. The person or organization targeted by the petition has no way of knowing if the names are genuine. It would be exceptionally easy for a person to make up lists of bogus names or even copy and paste names from other sources. Moreover, as in this case, email petitions often circulate long after they could have the slightest influence on the case at hand. And quite commonly, they contain inaccurate or completely false information that renders them utterly useless from the outset. These and other problems with email petitions, mean that Internet users should think twice before adding their names to such messages. Starting or signing a genuine and well organized paper or website based petition is much, much more likely to be helpful than adding a name to a randomly forwarded email.