Two animal lovers have launched a petition to ban paraquat herbicide in the Cayman Islands.
The online petition to ban the herbicide, which has been responsible for the deaths of numerous dogs over the years, began on Wednesday and by Thursday morning already had more than 500 signatures.
Jennie Boyers and Braeden Nicholson launched the petition in response to the ongoing cases of dog poisonings.
Ms Boyer, a nurse at Island Veterinary Services, who sees cases of paraquat poisoning of dogs regularly at the clinic, said there was a lot of support in the community to ban paraquat.
“We need to find out who is responsible for bringing paraquat into Cayman … we’re going to keep going with this until something gets done,” she said.
The petition comes as the latest apparent victim of the deadly herbicide – Tyson, a 13-month-old dog – died on Thursday morning after being poisoned Saturday, 9 June in his owner’s yard in Prospect. He was the third dog owned by Renee Knight that has been poisoned.
Vets euthanised another of her dogs, 7-year-old Romeo, earlier this week after he was poisoned, possibly at the same time as Tyson. In February, Ms Knight lost 5-year-old Zena, who also fell victim to deadly poison.
“I had five dogs, now I’ve got two,” Ms Knight said. All her dogs are rescue dogs adopted from the Cayman Islands Humane Society.
Ms Knight said she had left her dogs outside in her front yard for an hour – between 8 and 9pm on Saturday night – while she went to see friends who had arrived in Grand Cayman. “There’s a three-and-a-half or four foot high fence around my house, so there’s no way Tyson could have gotten out,” she said, leading her to believe that poison was deliberately placed in her property to poison her pets.
When she got home Saturday night, she found Tyson had vomited, but at that stage he did not appear very ill. However, when he started throwing up again at 4am, she took him to the vet’s emergency room. A day and a half later, Romeo also fell ill and was put down two days after that.
Since her 5-year-old dog Zena was killed in February, Ms Knight, who owns Cayman Diving School, said she had mostly kept her pets in her yard or inside.
“Everyone loved Zena and always wanted to take her home. She thought she was a person. What a personality she had,” Ms Knight said.
She has searched her yard for signs of the poison, she said, but did not find anything.
According to the manager of the humane society, Jason Jairam, people are contacting the animal shelter about poisoned dogs almost every second day in recent months.
“Honestly, it’s becoming a trend in the Cayman Islands for the last couple of months. Every other day, someone calls to say ‘my dog has been poisoned’. It used to just be around Windsor Park at one point, but now it’s island wide,” Mr. Jairam said.
“People are purposely doing this. They are setting it as bait,” he said.
Last month, humane society staff picked up five puppies from a home in the District of George Town whose mother, who was still nursing them, had been poisoned. The dog had already died by the time the owner contacted the humane society.
“The puppies are good, they weren’t affected. They’re still here with us, but they’re probably going to go to Pets Alive in New York,” said Mr. Jairam.
Paraquat is banned in much of Europe and has restricted use in the United States. If ingested by a dog, it is almost always fatal. It is also fatal to humans if ingested. There is no antidote and ingestion of the poison leads to a slow, painful death.
According to the petitioners, “there is no need for this poison in Cayman – there are a number of effective alternatives, and if the EU and US have deemed they can do without [it], so can we.”
The petition can be found by clicking here.