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$50,000 for a man not to eat a rabbit. The curious case of SaveToby.com.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The website is http://www.savetoby.com. Some people are upset by the very idea of the website. These people (the upset ones) make a good point, but they seem to be in the minority. The majority of people seem to find the website hilarious and think the proprietor of the website is a genius. No one I've talked with seems to be in the middle.

Welcome to my world.
Of course, and as fate would have it, the website is hosted by GoDaddy.com. The proprietor purchased his domain name with us, and as you might suspect also purchased privacy through DomainsByProxy.com. This is where it gets sticky. I've been contacted by a number of people requesting that I take the website down. With the exception of a website that was racist in nature (which we immediately took down when we learned about it), we at GoDaddy.com, have received more complaints about SaveToby.com than for any other website we've hosted. However, there is absolutely nothing illegal about the website and there is nothing in its contents that violates our terms of service agreement. Welcome to my world.

Toby and his owner.


Some people want the website taken down.
I first heard about SaveToby.com about 3 weeks ago. We were contacted by a number of people who, when they learned about the website, were horrified and wanted us to take it down. As we always do when we receive these types of complaints, we immediately took a close look at the website in question. We understood how the subject matter of the website was upsetting to certain people, but could find no violation of either the law or our terms of service agreement, so we left the site up. That was just the beginning.

$50,000 in donations and merchandise sales will save Toby.
If you haven't taken a look at http://www.SaveToby.com, or are hearing about this for the first time, here's the issue. A man claims to have found an injured, young rabbit under a porch one day, and then nursed it back to health. He then named the rabbit Toby. This individual swears that he will have Toby butchered and served for dinner on June 30, 2005, unless he is able to raise $50,000 in donations or merchandise sales. If he is able to raise the money, he then promises that Toby will forever live the life of a king (you can decide what that means). The story, photos of Toby (one of which shows Toby sitting in a cooking pot), possible recipes and answers to questions (some dealing with the legality of the website and the underlying idea) are all provided at http://www.SaveToby.com.

I now have a SaveToby.com mouse pad.
There is also a full range of Save Toby merchandise for sale. Many members of my staff (rightly or wrongly) have purchased Save Toby tee shirts and mouse pads. I now have a Save Toby mouse pad on my desk. So I can tell you that the site is "for real" (at least the merchandise sale part of it). Just for the record, other than providing hosting and domain name services, GoDaddy.com is not affiliated with SaveToby.com in any way.

Here's a "savetoby.com" tee shirt.


As of this writing, the proprietor of SaveToby.com has claimed to have raised more than $18,000.

Rabbit Haven persuaded PayPal to shut down SaveToby.com's account.
We've been contacted by a group called Rabbit Haven (http://www.rabbithaven.org), which is located in Gig Harbor, WA. Believe it or not this group really does exist, and the mission statement which appears on its website states: "We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing abandoned and mistreated rabbits, finding them permanent, loving adoptive homes, and educating the public on the care of these unique and wonderful beings." As you can imagine SaveToby.com has this group up in arms. In fact, its founder Sue Brennan contacted PayPal and has persuaded it to cancel SaveToby's PayPal account.

Toby is living the good life for now.
Although Ms. Brennan's organization seems to be dedicated to a noble cause, there are the inescapable facts that Toby is no longer abandoned or being mistreated in anyway. To that, add the fact that even though he (Toby) could possibly be butchered and cooked on June 30th, for the time being he is in a loving home.

SaveToby.com even caught the attention of the press.
Two online articles may be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7406483/ , as well as at http://www.wtopnews.com/index.php?nid=25&sid=427129. If you take the time to read these articles you will see that there are no end of animal rights activists and others that are upset about the website.

My position on SaveToby.com.
So what's my position on this website? First, as I pointed out earlier, there is nothing illegal about the website and it doesn't -- in any way -- violate any of our terms of service. I'll also point out that people in our country eat rabbits every day. What the site does is describe -- both in text and pictures -- a particular rabbit and makes an offer. The offer is that if the site's proprietor raises $50,000, this particular rabbit (named Toby) will not be butchered, cooked and eaten, the way millions of rabbits are each and every year.

Animal rights activists receive an unexpected benefit from the website.
I think that people who are animal rights activists get some benefit from the website. How's that you ask? The benefit is that the website provides evidence that the rabbits (and other animals I suppose) people eat, are living creatures with loveable and endearing traits. In some ways they have a personality and are quite capable of earning our affection. And when this is the case, as we do with our pets, we endear them with human-like qualities. This being the case, I think the creator of the website is brilliant. Some people worry about copycat sites popping up. Quite frankly, this doesn't trouble me. I think this type of thing only works once. I know I wouldn't give a copycat site a second look.

Toby sitting in a cooking pot.


If Toby checks out, merchandise sales stop.
It will be interesting to see what happens come June 30th. Will Toby be saved? Will he be served for dinner? Will he receive an extension? Only one thing is for certain, should Toby get cooked up, the sales of all SaveToby.com merchandise will come to a screeching halt. Ah, the power of economics.

The affect on me.
So how has this site affected me? Well I've caught some grief from animal rights activists about it. That's to be expected. I both understand and appreciate the points they make. Beyond that, I now own a SaveToby.com mouse pad (a gift from my staff). The site will have no impact on what I eat. I never really cared for rabbit. I'm a simple guy. I'd much rather have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
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