Plagiarism on Pet Websites

Today’s topic is a little different. That’s because today I was asked to plagiarize. If you’ve ever checked out the “Meet the Team” page on this website, then you may already know that I am sometimes contracted to work as a freelance writer for pet websites. Because of this, I get an inside view of how they work and what they expect from writers. Now, I’ve written a similar blog post to this one already; it’s called The Dirty Truth About Dog Websites and Blogs. While there may be some overlap, that post did not go into detail about plagiarism. In fact, I don’t think I even used the word in that article. I always knew that the people writing for those websites were just your average dog lovers, but today I had a real epiphany about the fact that many pet websites are factories for plagiarism.

What is plagiarism? It’s when you take someone else’s work or ideas without giving them credit — you’re passing them off as your own. That is exactly what I was asked to do today. I had completed an article for a certain pet website, and they replied to me telling me to remove my in-text citations and works cited page. What?! Don’t they know how plagiarism works?

But that’s the thing. Many pet websites have pages full of information without a single source listed or hyperlinked. Now, go look at the writer. Click on the name if you can. What does it say about them? If they aren’t an authority in whatever field they were writing about, then you can assume they were asked to do the same thing I was: research a topic, but don’t actually include the sources. Again, that’s plagiarism!

In some cases, the writer will be named but there will be no bio on the website. Other times, articles will have no writer or will be credited to the name of the website, like mine. Of course, on my website you can find out more about me by perusing the “Meet the Team” page. I am the only person writing for this site, whereas the pet websites I’m thinking of usually have dozens of writers.

But my point is that if there are no sources on a page and little to no information about the writer (or the writer clearly doesn’t have credentials), then there’s a high chance that the information within the article is plagiarized.

I also want to make it clear that I’m not saying writers are incapable of creating factual pieces about dogs just because they didn’t go to vet school. They are capable. After all, I’m one of them. But it’s important to include all of our sources so that it’s clear we have thoroughly researched the topic.

So why is this plagiarism happening in the first place? I can tell you from personal experience that it’s because these websites want to appear as authorities on the content they’re producing. That means their writers need to look like authorities, too. And apparently, a true authority wouldn’t need to use sources.

Which is honestly a very silly idea. Take someone like Patricia McConnell: she’s a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, she has a PhD in Zoology, she taught “The Biology and Philosophy of Human/Animal Relationships” at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and has written books that received much acclaim. She’s definitely considered an authority on dogs. And guess what? She references a hell of a lot of outside sources in many of her books!

But you’d think pet websites would be afraid of the legal consequences of plagiarism, right? Apparently not. It’s likely that the chances of them actually being caught are quite low. Their writers paraphrase the information from other sources, and the final article is run through a plagiarism checker. I would guess that the sources they’re stealing from would have to accuse them of plagiarism for any legal action to be taken in the first place, and it’s probably difficult to prove where the info is coming from since the internet is now so saturated with it. For instance, the AKC probably can’t prove that some pet website was stealing height and weight details from them as opposed to from literally any other pet website.

At the end of the day, it’s honestly pretty sad and quite frustrating that this is such a common theme on pet websites. It’s deceitful, and it’s illegal. Not to mention that stealing someone else’s intellectual property is a pretty shitty thing to do. I have a bad feeling that pet websites aren’t the only websites committing plagiarism, either.

Oh, and by the way, I won’t be writing for any website that expects me to plagiarize.

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