The paraquat poisoning of two dogs this week has resulted in renewed calls for a ban on the deadly herbicide.
Two pet owners in Bodden Town confirmed that their dogs had been poisoned.
Jennie Boyers, a veterinary nurse at Island Veterinary Services, said paraquat poisoning has been an issue in Cayman for a long time.
“We’ve been seeing the poisoning going on for 20 years at Island Vets alone, and it seems to get worse during the holidays.”
Last year, at least four dogs were poisoned over the holidays, including two that had to be put down on Christmas Day.
Determined to get the highly toxic herbicide banned in the Cayman Islands, in 2012 Ms. Boyers and her friend Braeden Nicholson started a petition, “Ban Paraquat in the Cayman Islands.” It got nearly 3,000 signatures and was sent to the Ministry of Agriculture, but there has been no response, she said.
A Facebook page created in 2012 calling for a ban on the herbicide has 415 “likes.”
“We would like to see it banned like other places in the world. There is no need for it to be here. Most good gardening people are going towards green products now, and paraquat is one of the dangerous ones and I wouldn’t advise anyone to use it,” said Ms. Boyers.
There are currently no restrictions on the importation or sale of the herbicide in the Cayman Islands.
Ms. Boyers is warning pet owners to stay vigilant, especially during the holidays, by keeping pets on a leash and being mindful of what they pick up on the ground. “Keep your dogs in and safe in home and don’t let them roam … One sip of that stuff and you’re dead, even if you spit it out straight away,” she said.
Pet owner Lee Maragh, who this week lost his 6-year-old Labrador mix Coco to paraquat poisoning, said he wants to get more signatures for the petition in a bid to prevent more dogs or even children from ingesting the toxin.
“Sign the petition and make your voice heard so that Cayman can join the rest of the world [in banning paraquat] … I plan to get more signatures and take it up myself with my representatives in Bodden Town, and see where that will take us,” he said.
Orville Daniels, who keeps eight dogs at his home in Northward, lost his Belgian Malinois Cupcake to what he believes was paraquat poisoning on Monday.
He said the vet took an X-ray on the dog and found no serious injuries, but Cupcake was “panting and gasping for breath,” a common symptom of paraquat poisoning.
“My little girl is still crying, she was the one who named her. She is more upset more than anything else. I can’t tell her it is poison, and I don’t even want to get that across to her, that someone did that,” said Mr. Daniels.
Mr. Daniels checked his back yard for any signs of poison but found nothing, he said.
Cupcake isn’t the first dog Mr. Daniels has had to say goodbye to because of paraquat poisoning. “I’ve had five dogs before die from paraquat, three in one morning, several years ago,” he said.
“That is cruelty to animals in one of the worst ways, because when you observe your animal in that process, it is horrifying. It is not an easy death,” he said.
Mr. Daniels believes paraquat should be banned, and replaced with a safer alternative.
Mr. Maragh described what happened when his dog Coco was poisoned.
“Everything was fine until Friday [Nov. 7], when I noticed she wouldn’t eat. Saturday morning she still wouldn’t eat,” he said. “Every morning when I’d have my coffee, I’d give her a treat, and on Saturday she wouldn’t take the treats. I knew something was wrong because she loved her treats.”
Puzzled by Coco’s behavior, he decided to take her for a check-up at Island Veterinary Services over the weekend.
“From the moment I walked in, the receptionist shook her head, and when I finally saw the vet, he also shook his head and said she was showing the classic symptoms of paraquat poising, and she’s going to die,” said Mr. Maragh.
“They gave her three days [to live]. He gave her two injections to ease the panting and gave me some pills that would ease the pain over the weekend,” he added.
Paraquat poisoning is particularly painful for a pet, and almost always fatal once an animal has ingested the toxin.
“It is a very slow, painful death,” said Ms. Boyers. There is no cure and the poison attacks an animal’s respiratory systems until it collapses, she said.
Coco stayed comfortably at her home in Beach Bay over the long weekend and died Tuesday morning. Mr. Maragh and his wife found Coco lying in their driveway, next to the yard in which she had spent many years of her life playing.
Mr. Maragh said he is devastated by her passing and regrets keeping her as an outside pet.
“I blame myself that she wasn’t confined like all the other dogs, especially now. She stayed in the yard all the time. She could always hear my car coming, and she would come to the gate and wait for me, tail wagging and all,” he said.