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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dog owners howling mad over poison

Pellets in park to kill rodents

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Little Mountain Park Dog Club president Kristy Greening puts up a warning sign for dog owners Tuesday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSEnlarge Image

Little Mountain Park Dog Club president Kristy Greening puts up a warning sign for dog owners Tuesday. Photo Store

Local dog club members are outraged after a dog ate rodent poison in an off-leash area.

Members of the Little Mountain Park Dog Club (LMPDG) say poison was scattered on the ground in pellet form by workers hired by the city.

The city has since suspended the rodent-poisoning operation.

Little Mountain Park is in the extreme northwest of Winnipeg, just north of Inkster Boulevard.

The poison, intended for rodents who have been digging holes, had not been dropped in the holes nor buried with fresh soil, as per city policy.

Most of the holes are dug by Richardson ground squirrels, commonly called gophers.

As a result of a public outcry on Tuesday, the City of Winnipeg stated in an email that "gopher control operations have been suspended" and it is "reviewing operating procedures."

The dog owner, who did not want to be interviewed or identified, posted a message on Monday on local discussion forum Reddit warning dog owners her dog needed a $250 emergency treatment by a veterinarian on Sunday after the dog had eaten "almost a cup worth of the pellets."

"They've been laying poison in the field for a number of years and it's unacceptable. This is the off-leash space where we're supposed to be and it's not safe," said Kristy Greening, the LMPDC president.

She brought her three dogs to the park on Tuesday as she and fellow club member James Dooks posted homemade signs to warn park users about the rodent poison.

"The dog that ate the poison was on leash at the time and the poison was just lying in the field," Greening said. "The poison was supposed to go a certain distance into the ground. Obviously, that didn't happen. Somebody maybe got lazy with how they were laying it. We don't know what happened and we're waiting to hear back from the city."

The city declined to make anyone available to the Free Press for an interview but a spokeswoman wrote in an email that the poison pellets were applied to the area by "a professional pest control company" to eradicate gopher/Richardson ground squirrel infestations and that the treatment in various parks has been done for decades.

The poster indicated the product her dog ingested was a restricted-use rodenticide that is an anticoagulant that causes the rodent to die after prolonged internal bleeding. A small warning sign that was said to be at the park over the weekend near one of the parking lots was no longer there on Tuesday.

"The vet estimated the dog ate about a cup worth of the poison. It was a little 40-pound lab cross so I would think that would be enough to kill a dog of that size," Greening said. "It causes internal bleeding and it can be a slow and painful death. It's just a horrible way for any creature to die."

Dooks said there was no advance notice of the poison application and no proper warning signage.

"I saw one little eight-by-10 sign last Thursday, which is now gone, and it wasn't even really clear what it meant. It was written in kind of law wording," he said.

"We've never seen signs up telling us there's poison around here. And the holes are definitely not filled in."

The city's statement indicated the contracted pest control company was responsible for public notification.

"In regards to the incident at Little Mountain Park, following an investigation, we have determined there were deficiencies. The City is following up with the contractor and reviewing operating procedures. Gopher control operations have been suspended and City staff have been sent out to monitor parks where the contractor was working," the city's statement read.

Greening said she was told by city staff her concerns were passed on to the division manager of parks and open spaces but that it could take two days for him to get back to Greening because he is in meetings.

"We might be well into next week before we hear back from anyone with a very busy weekend this weekend (Father's Day on Sunday), so if that poison is still there it's not acceptable," Greening said. "Yes, there's holes and it's a bit of nuisance but it's not worth poisoning them. We want to know what are some other options."

Kelcy Beirnes said she uses Little Mountain Park with her three dogs at least three times per week and thought her dogs were safe there.

"What's wrong with the city that they go out into nature and try to destroy it? They're putting out poison that could kill your animal here in this dog park where dogs come to," Beirnes said.

Colleen Farnworth said the issue goes beyond dogs.

"My sister-in-law told me someone she knows was here with kids last weekend. If a dog can pick it up, a child certainly can," Farnworth said.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 11, 2014 B4

HISTORY

Updated on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 10:52 AM CDT: Clarifies the dog was not seriously ill and adds links to Reddit.