Following through on a promise made earlier this year, the Cayman Islands government has banned the importation of the chemical herbicide paraquat into the territory.
According to an amendment to the Customs [Prohibited Goods] Order: “The import of the following is prohibited – (a) paraquat dichloride; and (b) any derivative of paraquat dichloride.”
The amendment to the order was approved by Cabinet last Tuesday and was made public on Friday.
The community group that started a petition in 2012 to ban the importation of the deadly chemical, which can be fatal if ingested in sufficient quantities, celebrated the announcement on its Facebook page: “This will save many of our pets’ lives and probably our children’s lives as well.”
The ban via the customs order does not address anyone who already has paraquat, which is generally used as a weed killer, in their possession.
“You only need a small amount to kill,” the Ban Paraquat group wrote. “Look out for containers and food lying in the roads, keep your pets on leashes and in your gardens and be responsible pet owners.”
Members of the Progressives government caucus announced in March that they would ban the importation of the chemical herbicide. The decision was announced shortly before community advocates proposed to hold a rally outside the Government Administration Building in support of a paraquat ban.
Selena Tibbetts, a local attorney who created the Ban Paraquat Facebook page, said a petition with more than 4,800 signatures of voters and non-voters was delivered to former Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor in May 2013, but wasn’t passed along to the elected government until six months later.
The person credited with initiating the petition, Island Veterinary Services nurse Jennie Boyers, said she got fed up with the sheer number of pets, dogs in particular, dying from what was obviously paraquat poisoning. Island Veterinary Services has recorded more than 200 cases of suspected poisoning from the chemical since the year 2000 in the Cayman Islands, and at least 50 of those cases have been confirmed through testing to be the result of paraquat poisoning.
Ms. Boyers said a fellow veterinary nurse at the practice watched both of her dogs die from paraquat poisoning after the animals ate chemical-laced meat that was left on the side of the road in West Bay while they were on walks with their owner.
Depending on the amount of the chemical consumed, it may take a dog weeks to die as the poison slowly restricts the animal’s breathing and destroys its organs. In most cases, the dogs have to be euthanized to prevent further suffering, Ms. Boyers said. There is no known cure for paraquat poisoning.
Paraquat can also kill humans, especially small children who might get their hands on the substance, or even children who are licked by an animal that has ingested a certain amount of it. Ms. Tibbetts believes it is only a matter of time before such a case occurs.
“There are little land mines laying around on the ground,” she said, “and if you touch one, that’s it, game over.”