Professionals warn dog owners to avoid Cyberport, Repulse Bay and dog parks in Sai Kung, to keep dogs on muzzles and to carry Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) at all times.
Photo courtesy of yeowatzup, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
At least four dogs have died in a string of poisonings in upscale dog-friendly areas. The poisonings happened primarily across the Southern District in Cyberport and The Pulse in Deep Water Bay, although cases have also been seen in Sai Kung.
Bait recovered by dog owners at Cyberport show the poison to have been placed in a block of luncheon meat.
The poisoning is thought to be paraquat, a common weed killer easily found at hardware stores in green powder form.
“Although we can’t be conclusive until results get back from the lab, the symptoms are similar to poisonings we have seen in the past,” explains Eva Sit, a spokesperson for Hong Kong Dog Rescue.
Paraquat is deadly in small amounts to both humans and animals. Prolonged exposure even to non-fatal levels are known factor for Parkinson’s Disease. In 2007, the chemical was banned in the European Union. Between 1998 to 2005, Tuen Mun hospital saw seven cases of paraquat poisoning where four out of seven died.
“This only happening to dogs now but it could happen to babies and other individuals. This is a large public health issue,” Sit says.
Sit argues that authorities should take more responsibility for the problem by banning – or at least controlling – the sale of the drug. She hopes that increased public exposure to the situation will lead to concrete action and mentions the possibility of starting a campaign to ban paraquat.
“Does someone have to die before authorities will take this seriously? This attitude is completely unacceptable.”
Symptoms and Prevention
According to Dr David Gething of East Island Animal Hospital, symptoms are mostly neurological and include severe fever, confusion, seizures and coma, and take about four hours to manifest post-ingestion.
Acorn Veterinary Hospital recommends owners to carry a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide and an oral syringe at all times. Oral application of 2ml per 1kg (up to 45ml) of the animal’s weight can induce vomiting within minutes, flushing out the ingested poison. The drug is safe within dosage and available at most chemists.
Nonetheless, professionals are warning dog owners to avoid affected areas while investigations are carried out. Medical treatment should be sought out immediately if symptoms are suspected.
“If you live in the Cyberport area and must take your dog to Cyberport park, please keep a muzzle on them,” Sit suggests.
“Luckily the weather is not too hot, so it will not make your pet uncomfortable.”
A continuing investigation
A staff member at a veterinarian clinic (who has asked to remain anonymous) told Harbour Times that their clinic alone has had over ten cases in the past month, with four of them from the past week alone. The earliest case in the recent string was on 15 January. Police were alerted but no suspects were found.
According to the source, one of the patient’s owners said they had been to a dog party in Cyberport Park. It is unclear how many cases resulted from the party.
The Veterinary Special Hospital (VSH) in Wanchai, meanwhile, reports seven cases with four dead.
A similar situation arose in July 2020 where three dogs were found dead in a 72-hour period in Pok Fu Lam, including Cyberport. Once again, police were unable to find a suspect despite an in depth investigation.
“There are many copycats,” Sit explains.
“The first dog poisonings in fact happened during the 90s on Bowen Road. I’m not sure if anyone has been arrested, but regardless, no one has been jailed even though deaths still continue to this day. No one seems to have taken it seriously.”
The Society for Prevention against Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) estimates that around 200 dogs, cats and wildlife have fallen victim to poisoned bait hidden in tall grass on the popular mid-levels hiking trail.
In their social media, the society reported that a dog lover has offered upwards to HK$100,000 for information on the recent poisonings.
Under current legislation, animal cruelty is subject to a minimum fine of $50,000 and a maximum of $200,000 with three years of imprisonment.
Police investigation is currently ongoing. Any information found may be passed to the Hong Kong Police hotline at 3660 6611 or the SPCA at 2711 1000.
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