More dog poisoning emerge in Mesa; 1 death
by Nathan Gonzalez - Mar. 11, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Walking the canal near Carriage Lane Park in southwest Mesa, Christine Pomerenke is now on "poison patrol."
Her dog CJ, a German shepherd mix, died March 1 after a visit to the park. It was at least the eighth suspected strychnine poisoning at Carriage Lane in recent months, and the first known fatality.
"People need to be aware of their animals walking the canal," Pomerenke said. She recalled walking the park with CJ and her other dog Gizmo. "I let CJ off the leash, and he was attracted to the telephone pole," where he began eating hamburger left on the ground, Pomerenke said.
After returning home, the dogs were placed in the backyard while Pomerenke tended to weeds out front. Fifteen minutes later, she found CJ dead.
Earlier that day, Reece Ponicki's dog, Max, a black Labrador/greyhound mix, had also fallen ill after eating chemically laced hamburger.
"(Max) was panting pretty heavily," Ponicki said. "All of a sudden he stood straight up on his hind legs, stared up at ceiling and fell over, and started having seizures."
The incident landed the dog a two-day hospital stay, and Ponicki, who was recently laid off, was hit with a $3,000 vet bill.
"I want to see this person get arrested for sure and to have to pay restitution to these dog owners that paid thousands of dollars to keep their dogs alive," he said.
Area residents and veterinarians say the poisonings began in November. Last month, three confirmed cases of strychnine poisoning were seen at First Regional Animal Hospital.
At the time Dr. Alisa Reniker, medical director and critical-care specialist at First Regional, said poisonings were suspected in least six other cases since Thanksgiving.
A sample from Max's stomach tested positive for strychnine, said Chad Willis, an officer with Mesa Animal Control.
Agriculturists and city employees are known to use the chemical against gophers, rodents and pests, said Dr. Nancy Bradley, director of Medical Services for the Arizona Humane Society.
After ingesting the drug, it begins to affect the animal's nervous system, causing tremors and seizures. Left untreated, an animal can die within 15 minutes to 2 hours.
Muscle contractions eventually lead to death, Bradley said.
"That's what causes the demise of the animal - respiratory failure. They can't breathe," she said. "It's a pretty horrific death."
Mesa police are increasing patrols in the area but are leaving the investigation to Mesa Animal Control. However, recent budget cuts may hinder their chances of finding the culprit, Willis said. The city recently slashed its animal-control officers from seven to two.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Mesa Animal Control at 480-644-2268. For information on the poisonings: www.carriagelanecanines.com.