Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition to ban the herbicide paraquat in the Cayman Islands.
Four dogs died over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in Grand Cayman after eating the herbicide. They are among scores of dogs throughout territory that have been fatally poisoned in recent years.
A Facebook group has been set up, along with a petition, to garner the extent to which people oppose the sale or importation of paraquat and to call on local government to ban it.
Island Veterinary Services nurse Jennie Boyers, one of the organisers, said: “My main aim for this year is not only to get paraquat banned, but to hopefully get a pesticide and toxic chemical board to regulate all poisons coming into Cayman. Most Caribbean islands have this in place already and I know for a fact that they had started to set one up here about 10 years ago, but it never happened. They had several people on the board and even travelled to Jamaica to see how their’s was run.”
The anti-paraquat movement has organised a candlelight vigil at Smith Cove at 5.30pm on Saturday, 12 January, to remember the dogs that have fallen victim to the herbicide, which is almost always fatal when ingested.
The group also hopes to hear from anyone who has lost animals to paraquat poisoning in the Cayman Islands, so it can determine if the poisonings are more prevalent in certain areas and to draw up a map of where the poisonings have occurred.
“This will also help us find out how many dogs have been poisoned over the years. No one really knows,” said Ms Boyers, who has seen and treated many of the poisoned dogs that have passed through the veterinary clinic.
During the Christmas and New Year holidays, four dogs in Grand Cayman were brought to the clinic suffering from what appeared to be paraquat poisoning. Two of the dogs were from Prospect, one from East End and another from West Bay. All four dogs died or were euthanised.
Paraquat is almost always fatal once ingested, usually causing a slow and painful death by suffocation because of the damage it does to the respiratory system. There is no cure for paraquat poisoning.
The Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture stopped importing and selling paraquat, which is used as a weed killer by farmers, in 2009. But there are no restrictions to the importation or sale of the herbicide in the Cayman Islands, so there is nothing to prohibit individuals from bringing it into the territory.