ACT News

Canberra family warn of animal baiting

A Facebook post about a summer spike in pet poisonings in the Lanyon Valley region has induced an online frenzy seeing several hundred pet owners share messages of concern. 

Managers of the Lanyon Valley Facebook page posted a public warning on February 5 and since then it has been shared by more than 500 people.

The Downes family's dog Bailey just scraped through after toxic poisoning. 
from left, Dean, Jessica 19, Leah, Kristen ...
The Downes family's dog Bailey just scraped through after toxic poisoning. from left, Dean, Jessica 19, Leah, Kristen 17, and Bailey the shih tzu. Photo: jamila_toderas

The site published the post after a distressed resident contacted them and said not only was her pet treated for snail bait poisoning but her vet told her of seven other cases thought to have occurred nearby in Wiburd and Paperbark streets.

Staring down into the doe-eyes of his 14-month-old shih tzu, Dean Downes said he and his family felt lucky their tiny dog had scraped through.

On January 18 the family, who live on Paperbark Street in Banks, noticed their pooch Bailey was not himself.

Hours later they were waiting at Tuggeranong Veterinary Hospital for X-ray results and through surgery to determine which toxins had affected him.

"It started out that he wouldn't do anything, he was lethargic, not eating and then came the vomiting," Mr Downes said.

"It wasn't looking very good for a while there. But eventually he came good."

Mr Downes said he was $1800 out of pocket but couldn't be sure how Bailey was poisoned.   Hearing about the spate of localised cases, he hadn't ruled out baiting.

An ACT Territory and Municipal Services spokesman said there did not appear to have been an increase in baiting in the ACT over the past few years.

"Illegal baiting tends to be sporadic and localised and is therefore quite unpredictable," he said. 

It is recommended to contact ACT police with any suspicion of malicious baiting. 

"Under section 12A of the Animal Welfare Act 1992 the maximum penalty for a person laying poison with the intention of killing or injuring a domestic or native animal is 100 penalty units ($15,000), imprisonment for one year or both." 

Tuggeranong Veterinary Hospital declined requests for comment from The Sunday Canberra Times.

Animal Referral Hospital after-hours veterinarian Frazer Boneham said while it was clear the level of concern had risen in Canberra, he had not seen "an appreciable rise" in presentations of poisoned animals over the past six months.

"We see a reasonable cross-section of animals doing most of the Canberra region's after-hours work," he said. "On average we would see 7-8 per week, an animal on most nights that has been exposed to a common household poison."

Dr Boneham said rates of pet poisoning had been fairly stable but annual snail bait exposure rose in warmer months with people using the chemicals to protect new-growth plants. 

He advised owners to stay vigilant and look out for lethargy, bleeding and haemorrhage typically associated with rat bait exposure and for tremors, seizures and vomiting usually seen after snail bait ingestion.

Catching things at an early stage was vital, he said.