If you’ve been on either Facebook or Twitter this morning, you may have seen one of your friends has posted the picture at the top of this article.

At first, you may wonder if that advert, which according to the Facebook group I Love Greenside was spotted in Bryanston, is genuine. After all, who in their right mind would stick up an advert to a completely illegal event, complete with a phone number to call in case you’d like to book some tickets?

It seems that there is at least some sanity in the criminal world, although the land of advertising continues to be as crazed as ever. htxt.africa can reveal that the ads are part of a guerilla campaign by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) designed to raise awareness of the growing number of underground dog fights taking place across the country.

NSPCA spokesperson Wendy Wilson says that the organisation had planned to keep the adverts up for three days, but following death threats and an unexpectedly overwhelming response were coming clean today.

“It was a drastic campaign but we felt drastic action was needed,” says Wilson, “Because we’ve seen a 500% increase in dog fighting in the region in the last couple of years.”

The hoax was a little too good, and had us fooled initially. With no clue on the landing website, cajunrules.co.za, that it was fake we dug around in the Whois records to find that the domain record was clearly in the name of a pseudonym.

Updated Date: 2016-05-30T10:42:10Z
Creation Date: 2016-04-11T08:45:47Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2017-04-11T08:45:47Z
Sponsoring Registrar: Hetzner (Pty) Ltd
Domain Status: ok https://icann.org/epp#ok
Registrant ID: TC0001583118-HTZ
Registrant Name: Jacun Suler
Registrant Organization: Cajun Rules
Registrant Street: 3 Cajun House 66 William Nicol drive  Sandton  
Registrant City: Johannesburg
Registrant State/Province: Gauteng
Registrant Postal Code: 2021
Registrant Country: ZA
Registrant Phone: +27.115555555

We called the number on the ad but were told the volume of calls it was receiving meant we would have to call back later.

However, the registry on ZACR did reveal that the site was hosted by Hetzner, so we decided to give them a ring.

Hetzner spokesperson, Athena Turner, told us that the hosting company removed the website after it was inundated by calls from the media and concerned citizens. Since the website was advertising an illegal activity, Hetzner could shut it down immediately without issuing a takedown warning to the owner.

“While Hetzner does not proactively monitor customer content, should illegal content come to our attention that is a violation of South African law and /or Hetzner’s Acceptable Use Policy, we immediately remove the content while liaising with the customer concerned,” Hetzner said in a statement. “This was the case with the domain cajunrules.co.za.”

So Cajun Rules had the best of intentions. The advert – and the website – were created by an advertising firm, Grey, on behalf of the NSPCA.

“We did notify Hetzner about a couple of months ago,” says Grey’s Creative Director Francois Du Preez said. “Someone forgot along the line that [the campaign] was going to live. We had no idea that it would go this big this fast and we certainly didn’t want to cause Hetzner any problems.”

Du Preez says that the research for the campaign revealed that many dog fighting rings in the country originate in wealthy neighbourhoods like Sandton, which is why the billboard was placed there..

Du Preez also said that quite a lot of people had entered their details on the Cajun Rules website before Hetzner pulled it down. While many of the entrants hurled abuse at the campaign, there were a worrying number of people who were legitimately asking for details for the event.

“Some people even wanted to know if they could enter their own dogs!” said Du Preez.

When asked if the details of these individuals will be handed to the authorities, Du Preez admitted that he wasn’t aware of the legalities of the situation.

“Ultimately the data will be handed over to our client, the NSPCA,” he said. “I don’t know what they’ll do with it, but if you try to enter your dog in a dog fight, you’re an arsehole frankly.”