As many as 1 000 dogs poisoned per week in SA
Poison is usually placed in viennas, Russians or mince and fed to the dogs. Once the dogs are dead, the homes are easy targets for housebreaking or theft.
As many as 1 000 dogs are poisoned in South Africa every week. This is according to Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, director at the Griffon Poison Information Centre.
On Wednesday evening, up to 40 dogs were poisoned in Florida, Roodepoort.
“The poison that is used is very potent – around 97% of animals that are poisoned die.”
Verdoorn said poison is usually placed in viennas, Russians or mince and fed to the dogs. Once the dogs are dead, the homes are easy targets for housebreaking or theft. “The most common poison used is Aldicarb, also known as ‘two-step’. It’s called that because you take two steps and then you die.”
Other poisons commonly used are Carbofuran and Terbufos. These are all pesticides and are highly toxic. With almost 30 years’ experience, Verdoorn, who predominately assists the national Department of Agriculture and the SAPS, said Aldicarb is the primary active substance used in some pesticides. It is banned in parts of Europe and can no longer legally be sold in South Africa.
“But is still used in Zimbabwe, from where it is smuggled in by crime syndicates.” Verdoorn says death is almost guaranteed when a dog is given a high dosage of Aldicarb.
“What happens is that the animal’s nervous system shuts down. It is paralysed and then suffocates to death.”
According to Verdoorn, it would take a big dog 20 minutes to die and a smaller dog could be dead within five minutes.
“This is affecting the whole country. The poison is used in farm attacks as well.”
Aldicarb is a grainy black substance and is readily available at informal shops and taxi ranks, where it is sold in little plastic bags, says Verdoorn. Going on for years Cora Bailey, director of Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW), who happens to live in Florida, confirmed Wednesday’s mass poisoning to News24.
“This has been going on for years,” Bailey said.
“It is a massive problem. This poison is being sold everywhere.”
Bailey urged the public to keep their pets inside at night and to report incidents of poisoning to the police.
“Keep your dogs away from your front yard. And let them sleep inside at night. This is safer for you and obviously for your dog. Criminals are more reluctant to enter a property where the dog can alert homeowners,” Bailey said.
Mandy Cattanach, manager of the SPCA in Roodepoort, told Netwerk24 while the animal welfare organisation dealt with poisoned animals daily, this incident was something it had never seen before. Cattanach reportedly said that residents of Janet, Maud and Cinderella streets and Sixth Avenue called the SPCA en masse on Wednesday night to report that their dogs were dying.
The incident was being investigated, she said.
SAPS Florida could not be reached for comment. According to a statement by Animal Resource South Africa, dog poisonings are on the rise in South Africa. The organisation also urged pet owners to keep dogs inside at night.
What should I do if I suspect my pet has been poisoned?
You need to get your pet to the vet as fast as you can, the statement read. If treatment is started early, the prognosis for recovery is good.
“Phone your vet’s rooms while you are on the way and let them know you have an emergency, that you suspect poisoning. To buy more time, you can give your pet activated charcoal if you have it at home. This will only have an effect if your pet is showing very mild clinical signs. Don’t waste time doing this: do it fast and still hurry to the vet. The activated charcoal is not a treatment, but it may buy you a little extra time. If your dog is already vomiting, it won’t have any effect, as it will only be regurgitated.”
Signs and symptoms
Animal Resource South Africa lists the following symptoms that may indicate that your dog has been poisoned:
Disorientation, vomiting, confusion, excessive salivation and coughing up slime, excessively runny nose, hyperventilation, lethargy, difficulty breathing, convulsions and seizures, diarrhoea that may be mucous or black or “tarry” in the case of anticoagulant poisoning, abnormal pupils – either pinpoint or dilated, tremors and muscle twitching, temporary or partial paralysis, partial loss of movement, unconsciousness, coma, bleeding from the nose, gums or wounds, acute blindness in the case of anticoagulants, and blood in the urine in the case of anticoagulants.
Anticoagulants are medicines that help prevent blood clots. These agents are also present in rat and mouse poisons, that are also used to poison dogs.