Bondi View

Is a dog poisoner on the loose in Sydney’s parks?

Rushcutters Bay Park, where dogs were poisoned and one died in August this year. Photo: Vanessa Lim

By VANESSA LIM

Multiple dog poisonings and the deliberate placement of poisoned meat in parks, especially in off-leash areas where dogs are free to roam, are still being reported across Sydney.

Sydney Park locals reported recently that poisoned meat was left on the ground, posing a risk of serious harm to pets. In the past week, dog walkers using Enmore Park and Enmore Tafe Park also reported baited chicken was discovered on the ground, although it was later found to be a false alarm. However, a warning was posted on the Facebook page “Dogs of Enmore Park,” which stated, “Please be vigilant and perhaps just walk your dogs on leashes for the moment. We hope the perpetrator is caught soon”.

The dog-baiting in these parks follow on from an incident at Rushcutters Bay Park when ‘aniseed-scented’ bait spiked with poison killed one dog and severely sickened another in August. In the same month a chunk of meat filled with toxic green slug pellets was left outside a home in Whitney Street, Mona Vale, and a young puppy had to have its stomach pumped after eating it.
In September a greyhound was taken ill after it ingested a large amount of rat poison that was left in baited mincemeat on the bayside at Lilyfield. Dogs have also been poisoned near Le Montage at Rozelle and Pioneers Park in Leichhardt. On the coastal walk at South Coogee baited meat was found scattered on the ground. Further afield, up to a dozen dogs fell ill and two died after consuming poisoned meat near Waterfront Park in Newstead, Queensland

The poisoning scare is worrying dog owners, such as Inner West local Olivia Nunes-Malek, who walks her dogs every day.
“This makes me feel very scared for my dog’s safety. Parks are one of the only places they could go where they can be unleashed and bond with other dogs. If they don’t have these parks then their only free place is at home,” she said.
“Maybe even walking them can be considered dangerous because of the high risks associated with poisoning. I’m very worried for my own dogs and other dogs and hope more awareness is brought up about this issue.”

High risk of death
Ms Nunes-Malek is not walking her dogs to the park as often as she used to due to the recent reports of dog baiting.
“If my dog were to be poisoned, I would be devastated. One of them is already very sick and I think the poisoning would be the final straw leading to her death,” she said.

Lara Schilling, an Eastern Suburbs resident who takes her dog out to a local park every day, was frightened by the South Coogee coastal walk baiting incident. She said some suspected that a local resident who had a “strong hatred of dogs” being walked past their place had put the baits down.
She also noted that dogs aren’t the only animals that could get hurt.
“People think that it’s just limited to dogs, but any kind of animal that has an omnivorous diet may wind up consuming the baits. There are ecological consequences for some native species too,” Ms Schilling said.
Ms Schilling couldn’t understand the motivation behind the dog baiters and wanted harsher fines for the perpetrators.

“Either somebody takes some sick pleasure in abusing animals, or they have a severe hatred of dogs. It’s almost impossible to catch people who lay baits, despite the harsher fines and jail sentences that have been introduced. It’s animal abuse, committed by people who have sociopathic behaviour.”
“I don’t think families who fall victim to this should be financially liable either. All pet insurance policies should cover 100 per cent of the medical costs associated with the poisonings, regardless of the level of cover. Fines should be used to cover the treatment,” Ms Schilling said.
Ms Schilling also pointed out that government-approved baits such as 1080 that are used for culling foxes, feral cats and other animals that are considered pests shouldn’t be approved regardless of where the bait is placed. “It’s usually a rural thing, but some urban areas may use it,” she said.

Threat to native wildlife
While 1080 bait is not available to the general public, Ms Schilling criticised the use of it due to the danger it posed for domesticated pets as well as native wildlife.
During this dog bait scare, dog owners have been advised to keep their dogs on a leash and be wary. Ms Schilling suggested teaching dogs certain cues to minimise the risks.
“I find that a lot of dogs don’t know the ‘leave it’ cue effectively and will pick up food off the ground when they feel like it. My worry is that a child walking their dog may not be able to send out this cue effectively. It’s not the dog’s fault, nor the child’s, it’s the fault of the people who deliberately lay those baits!”

Ms Schilling also commented on her own dog park experience.
“The other issue is that the dogs around here absolutely love to eat grass. They’ll just stand there and eat grass whether they’re feeling sick or not.”
While dogs are the culprits in biting or sniffing random things on walks and while off the leash, dog owners should always keep a lookout for what their dogs are chewing to minimise the risks of poisoning.

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