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Photos do not show dog and koala after wildfire rescue

January 7, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Golden retriever saved baby koala from a wildfire in Australia.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Photos that show a baby koala snuggled on the back of a golden retriever was taken in 2018, not during the recent fires.

THE FACTS: The photos are circulating on social media with false claims that a husband and wife in Australia opened their door to find their golden retriever with a koala it rescued from a wildfire on its back. “The look in their eyes tells the story,” one Facebook user posted with the false narrative.

Kerry McKinnon, the dog’s owner, told The Associated Press the photos were taken in September 2018 when a baby koala wanting to escape cold temperatures climbed onto the dog, Asha, for warmth. McKinnon took the photos after she discovered the two cozied up on her porch in western Victoria, Australia.

In the photos, the baby koala can be seen perched on Asha’s back, as it looks directly at the camera with the golden retriever lying down and looking unbothered. The photos were widely shared at the time.

McKinnon said her family does not live in an area impacted by recent wildfires in the country.

“The story being circulated about her and the koala are nothing to do with the fires, these photos were taken in September 2018,” she said.

Several Australian celebrities shared the photos of Asha with the baby koala on Sunday in an attempt to raise awareness of the fires in Australia. Some posts on Facebook and Twitter received thousands of likes and comments.

Fires continue to burn in Australia even as cooling temperatures and rain brought some relief over the weekend. The fires have been blazing since September as the country experiences one of the hottest and driest years on record. The fires have already killed more than 20 people and destroyed about 2,000 homes.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536