Note: this story was debunked by Cerebral Soup, as quoted in this post. It was subsequently declared an official urban legend by Snopes That said, here's the original post:
OK. Maybe it's an urban legend in the making and maybe not, but the Sydney Morning Herald reports:
Thousands of Japanese have been swindled in a scam in which they
were sold Australian and British sheep and told they were
Flocks of sheep were imported to Japan and then sold by a
company called Poodles as Pets, marketed as fashionable
accessories, available at $1,600 each.
That is a snip compared to a real poodle which retails for twice
that much in Japan.
The scam was uncovered when Japanese moviestar Maiko Kawamaki
went on a talk-show and wondered why her new pet would not bark or
eat dog food.
She was crestfallen when told it was a sheep.
Then hundreds of other women got in touch with police to say
they feared their new "poodle" was also a sheep.
One couple said they became suspicious when they took their
"dog" to have its claws trimmed and were told it had hooves.
Japanese police believe there could be 2,000 people affected by
the scam, which operated in Sapporo and capitalised on the fact
that sheep are rare in Japan, so many do not know what they look
Cerebral Soup (from Japan) is thus far the first blog I've found that uses facts (rather than simple cries of incredulity) to critique the story:
* another couple of blogs support that the actress was not talking about herself but a "friend"
* Hokkaido is not a huge place - and it just happens to be the centre of sheep breeding in Japan. There are even sheep festivals.
* as popular dogs go Toy Poodles are in the top 5. They are all over the TV. You can't miss them. Not only that but there are also several Japanese websites dedicated to poodles, poodle clubs and breeder sites. You can't walk into a pet store without seeing one. Poodles are everywhere.
* It seems very odd that this breaking story does not appear anywhere in the Japanese media. Now this is exactly the kind of story most news shows would spend hours on screening - complete with tearful, blurred out victims, and the anchors being able to express total outrage. Thorough investigations into the differences between poodles and lambs. A few "experts" in ties thrown in to give it all credibility. For sure Wai-wai would have jumped all over it months ago. [I checked WaiWai, and there's nothing--g]
* this blog entry. . . tells the exact same story as the actress - which was told to him by a co-worker when they went out drinking. Almost word for word it is the same story that Maiko Kawakami told on the TV show on April 18. X-san takes their "poodle" to a vet because they think it's ill. The vet reveals that the "poodle" is not ill - but a sheep!
On this evidence, I'm going to posit that Ananova, Sydney Morning Herald, Metro UK, The Register, and a variety of other British and Australian media outlets have been fleeced -- and Neatorama readers might well have been the first to bring this to the attention of the American media.
Just don't believe everything you read, or every picture you see.