Google Denies that its Street View Car Hit & Killed a Donkey

A Google Street View vehicle captured a donkey lying on the side of the road in Kweneng, Botswana, and the picture went viral on Monday, prompting viewers to question whether the car was responsible for the death of the ass.

I know what you’re thinking. Animals become road kill every day. Is it really that insane to think that the car simply passed an already dead donkey, struck by some other motorist? While all that is reasonable enough, here’s the thing: The scene, which is still visible on Street View, shows a live donkey standing at the side of a dirt road as the Google car approaches it. You can even see the side of the donkey as the car passes, but after the picture-logging car passes the donkey, it’s lying dead on the road. Suspicious?

Google responded to the controversy, stating that its team did not run over the donkey:

“Our Street View teams take the safety of people and donkeys very seriously,” Google said in a statement. “A review of our imagery confirms that we did not cause any harm to the donkey.”

Google also explains that the Street View vehicle drove up to the donkey lying down on the road and as they passed it, it stood back up and walked away. The scene that went viral shows it in reverse, making it look like the donkey got hit.

But technology editor, Claire Porter, said the pictures and Google’s story don’t quite add up.

“The problem with this version of events is that — based on the images — it appears as though the donkey is walking backward,” Porter said. “This version of events seems to make no earthly sense.”

While she makes a somewhat valid argument, Google’s story is probably true. The Los Angeles Times reports that Google is telling the truth because the donkey was most likely giving itself a dust bath, an animal grooming behavior to keep flies off. This video shows other donkeys also displaying the behavior. There is also the fact that the picture shows no signs of physical harm.

Sure, Google running down a donkey makes for a more interesting story, but at least we can go to bed knowing that there is a perfectly fine donkey out there rolling on the ground, literally, laughing at the controversy it stirred up. And I got to use the word ass in a completely appropriate manner. It’s a win-win!