Claim: Pieces of cheese with nails in them and other booby-trapped treats have been found at dog parks.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2011]
DOG PARK ALERT: We have received two notices. (1) Nails wrapped in cheese at dog parks in Chicago and Massachusetts (see pic). (2) from some friends that in Augusta Maine dog park, antifreeze is being found in doggie water bowls. Please beware and be careful and PLEASE SHARE and spread the word. sigh
Origins: These alarming warnings about food items booby-trapped with nails being left in dog parks
began circulating on social media sites in October 2011, usually accompanied by a photo depicting a handful of cubes of cheese that had nails run through them. The photo did come from a July 2011 news story about such an event, which reported that a dog walker in Centennial Park had discovered the nail-laced treats on the floor of a nearby kennel. However, that incident occurred in Buenos Aires, Argentina, not
in the U.S.
At the time this warning began circulating, we found no evidence that cheese embedded with nails had been discovered in Chicago or Massachusetts, or in any other U.S. dog park. It is true, however, that discoveries of similar booby-trapped food items have been reported in the U.S. and elsewhere:
- In October 2011, about two weeks after the photo of the nail-laden cheese began circulating online, two pieces of meat that had several framing nails "loosely attached" to their underside were reportedly found at the Buchanan Park dog park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
- Similarly, in January 2013 UK news sources reported the discovery of several dozen cocktail sausages spiked with nails at a popular dog-walking spot in Abergavenny, South Wales:
- In January 2013, residents of Canton, Michigan, reported finding pieces of meat and fish with pins and needles inserted into them in their neighborhood; two dogs underwent surgery to remove needles they swallowed while ingesting pieces of sausage found on the ground.
- In July 2003, eight dogs died and at least sixteen more fell ill after visiting Laurelhurst Park in Portland, Oregon, where they were believed to have ingested contaminated pieces of meat or sausage. (The residents of that area were then engaged in a dispute between pet owners who felt dogs should be free to roam that park and others who felt the city's leash law should be enforced there.)
As for the claim that "antifreeze is being found in doggie water bowls," we also found no reports confirming that as having happened in an Augusta, Maine, dog park at the time. It is also true, however, that antifreeze-laced water and treats have reportedly been left in doggie parks before:
- In 2009, cupcakes that had been injected with antifreeze were left out for the dogs who frequented Poplar Park in Port Perry (a town within commuting distance of Toronto, Canada). In 2008, 6 pooches were felled (2 fatally) by antifreeze left in buckets of water in an off-leash area of High Park in Toronto. Antifreeze is not the only poison that has been used: in 2004 in an off-leash area of Withrow Park in Toronto, 16 dogs were poisoned after ingesting chunks of hot dogs spiked with a rare pesticide.
- In September 2012, Boston Police arrested a landscaper suspected of soaking pieces of hot dogs in antifreeze and leaving them spread out on grass for pets to eat (allegedly because he was disgruntled with dog owners who didn't clean up after their pets).
- In January 2013, a dog owner in Tigard, Oregon, reported that his dog became ill after drinking a suspicious substance
"resembling green anti-freeze" from a bowl hidden behind a culvert at the Ash Avenue Dog Park.
In July 2013, dog owners in San Francisco were warned to be cautious after a canine in that city became seriously ill, with the suspected cause being one of a number of poisoned meatballs found throughout the area (although it is as yet unclear whether the meatballs were part of a deliberate plot to harm pet dogs):
A 7-year-old dachshund named Oskar was rushed to the vet after eating one of the meatballs. Dr. Carrie Journey says his symptoms are
consistent with strychnine poisoning.
"This is a very rapidly absorbed toxin," she said. "This is something that gets in the system within 10 to 15 minutes. So it's important that people act quickly and get to a veterinarian ASAP if they think their dog has eaten something."
But Oskar may not be the only victim. Another dog is showing symptoms of strychnine poisoning, which includes agitation, hyper-reactivity to light and noise, and seizures.
And here's the big concern for dog owners — dozens of similar meatballs, stuffed with pellets, are being found all across the city. This includes neighborhoods like Diamond Heights, Twin Peaks, Cole Valley, and lower Haight.
Veterinarians say strychnine poisoning is not that uncommon in pets. It's often used in food to get rid of skunks, coyotes, and raccoons, and can be ingested unintentionally by other animals.
Last updated: 5 July 2013
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