More dogs die, poison suspected

At least two more dogs have suffered from poisoning in the South Sound area, and one has died, since this newspaper reported on a string of animal deaths earlier this month.

Although veterinarians haven’t confirmed it in the two most recent cases, the dog deaths were believed to be the result of poisoning by paraquat – an herbicide commonly used by farmers and that is imported here for use by the Department of Agriculture.

One Cayman pup, named Hobnob, had to be euthanised Monday after eating something during a walk along the beach several days before, according to nurses at the Island Veterinary Clinic.

‘This particular one was walking along the beach and picked something up,’ said veterinarian nurse Joanna Laws.

A second dog of about the same age is currently in the clinic’s care, but Ms Laws said there is little hope of its survival.

‘There is no cure for paraquat poisoning,’ she said, adding that the second dog to be poisoned was also from the South Sound area. It was not known where the animal may have picked up the stuff.

Vets at the Island Clinic have estimated they have seen at least ten such poisoning cases so far this year, which Ms Laws admits is higher than normal. Grand Cayman does usually see several cases of animal poisonings in any given year, but they are unpredictable and tend to happen in clusters at different times.

For instance, last year Ms Laws said most of the reported poisoning cases had occurred in West Bay.

She said tissue tests would be needed to determine whether the dogs had actually been poisoned by paraquat. Often those tests are expensive and dog owners can’t afford to have them done.

Veterinarians aren’t sure how or why poisons which are used as weed killers are showing up on local beaches. Dr. Brenda Bush from the Island Clinic has previously said that paraquat has been used to maliciously poison animals considered a nuisance; a crime under the Cayman Islands Penal Code.

South Sound residents have organised a beach clean up at South Sound Beach starting at 5pm this coming Sunday.

Department of Agriculture officials have said that Gramocil, the brand name of the paraquat that Cayman imports, contains an emetic…a chemical that causes vomiting if it is ingested. Other chemicals are designed to make the smell and taste of the Gramocil unappealing.

The department only sells the paraquat to individuals considered bona fide farmers.

‘Used correctly paraquat remains a safe and effective tool in the arsenal of the farmer for the control of weeds in crop production,’ Department of Agriculture Assistant Director Brian Crichlow told the Caymanian Compass earlier this month. (See Compass 9 September)

The Recreation, Parks and Cemeteries Unit stopped using paraquat after the department’s manager blacked out from inhaling the herbicide last year.