Topanga’s Dog Eaters

JC is a university student who grew up in Topanga Canyon, a town in the mountains of LA. His mom works for the local animal rescue and knows a lot of people in the town. 

JC- So, growing up in Topanga Canyon, there was this story that the old timers used to always tell us about, which was that there was this group of unhoused people who were all meth addicts and lived under this bridge in Topanga in a big encampment. The story went that they would steal people’s dogs and eat them, so there was a superstition about not walking your dogs in this one specific area of town, lest they get eaten by the meth addicts. I grew up believing this my whole life, and it didn’t occur to me til I was older that this story probably wasn’t true, but I like to believe that they are still up there eating dogs

Me- Do you have any clue how this story originated?

JC- Given Topanga’s nature, It’s likely that someone just made it up so people would keep their dogs on leashes and not let them run around, um, it’s also possible that the legend started because it was real. My mom claims to know people whose dogs have been stolen and eaten, so who’s really to say, other than my mom.


Every town is riddled with its many personal stories and tales, and when they are passed from person to person it’s hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. It’s interesting how local tall tales like this appear, often having a pretty standard beginning, like wanting to keep people off of one’s property, that can very quickly spiral into heightened and darker tales. Like a game of telephone, the more the rumor spreads, the bigger it becomes, and the harder it is to know where it originally began. 

Studying local tales also gives insight into issues and values that are pertinent to the town’s population. The housing crisis in Los Angeles is an ongoing issue. When rumors like this are spread around and believed by wide portions of the population, it creates even more negative stereotypes towards the already struggling houseless people. These stories allow the population to have a reason to not like and be mean to their homeless community and further helps spread the hateful anti-homeless mindset that is prominent throughout the area. Hating the local homeless for eating dogs feels more valid a reason than hating them for being homeless. Creating stories like this helps stereotypes stay alive and gives communities a ‘common enemy’ to which their anger can be directed towards.