Chester County mayoral candidate falls for satirical article about drug-sniffing rabbits on Lancaster police force

CHESTER COUNTY — It just goes to show that you can’t always believe what you read, especially on the Internet.

A candidate for mayor in Phoenixville, Chester County learned that lesson the hard way after being fooled by a satirical website’s news story that claimed Lancaster City Police were using a contingent of drug-sniffing rabbits in an attempt to curtail the downtown drug trade, according to a LancasterOnline report.

Dave Gautreau, the Republican candidate for mayor of the Chester County borough, floated the idea of getting a squad of drug-sniffing bunnies for the town at a forum for mayoral candidates on Oct. 12.

The story was first reported by Philly.com.

Skeptical residents who heard the candidate’s plan quickly turned to Google, where a quick search revealed an article about the drug-fighting rabbits on the satirical website People of Lancaster.

Police in Amherst, NY, apparently posted a similar story as an April Fool’s Day gag in 2016.

Gautreau apparently fell for the hoax.

The Philly.com article said he was discussing the high cost of drug-sniffing dogs at a party last winter when someone told him about the less-expensive, cuddly alternative proposed by People of Lancaster.

The article on People of Lancaster includes a fake quote from mayor Rick Gray, who said the rabbits cost the city $1,500 each.

“But the cost of feeding and supporting the rabbits will only be around $4,800 per year — far less than a K-9,” Gray allegedly said in the satirical piece.

Gautreau said he was “dead-serious” when he made his comments at the forum. He said he called Lancaster and spoke with someone who confirmed that police here use rabbits to find drugs. He said the woman he spoke to sounded convincing.

Gautreau added that he probably should have consulted Google, but did not.

A Lancaster police spokesperson told Philly.com that police in the Garden Spot do not use rabbits to sniff for drugs, “nor do we have any plans to.

Philly.com reports that Gautreau admitted he’d been had on a Facebook post on his professional page. That post has since been taken down, according to Philly.com.

Gautreau’s personal Facebook page included the same message, which has also been deleted, Philly.com said.