A devastated Cooktown pet owner is calling for landholders to follow the letter of the law after her beloved dog died a horrific death suspected to be caused by a toxin banned in most other countries.
Helen Greaves and her partner live on Ryder Road about half an hour north-west of Cooktown, adjoining a large property owned by a conservation organisation.
On 6 September, a day after poison baits were laid on the neighbouring property, but with no notification and minimal warning signage, their beloved 11-year-old whippet-staffy cross Q began to convulse.
“My partner discovered her having a fit, she may have been enticed by the smell, maybe an eagle picked it up and dropped it, we don’t know,” Ms Greaves said.
“The symptoms were classic 1080 poisoning, fits, wild running, screaming, really horrible stuff.”
Angry and upset, Ms Greaves said she wanted other pet owners to be careful, but also for landholders using the toxin to follow the guidelines.
Sodium fluoroacetate, better known as 1080, is a biodegradable toxin with no antidote, which causes frenzied running and barking, uncontrollable vomiting, loss of bowel control, convulsions and death in warm-blooded animals, including humans.
The poison is currently banned worldwide, with the exception of Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Israel, Japan and Korea.
“How can this horrible toxic poison be allowed this close to people’s homes,” Ms Greaves said.
“There’s got to be a better way, no animal deserves to die like that, including wild dogs, it’s a horrible, horrible way to die.”
Cook Shire Deputy Mayor Robyn Holmes confirmed council did supply landholders with 1080 baits under strict conditions.
“1080 is only supplied for the control of wild dogs and feral pigs, with the condition that owners must provide written notification at least 72 hours prior to all neighbours with properties adjoining the holding where the baits are to be laid,” Cr Holmes said.
But Ms Greaves said she and many other neighbours directly adjoining the large property had not been notified.
“Speaking with others in the area it doesn’t appear anywhere near enough people who have adjoining properties were notified,” she said.
“There’s quite a decent population here, they’ve got a lot of neighbours, but the property caretaker told me he couldn’t get hold of contact details to notify people.”
But Ms Greaves said Cook Shire Council could provide neighbour’s contact details for the purposes of compliance.
“More than one person hasn’t done their homework regarding how to get contact information about adjoining property owners,” she said.
“The information is there, ignorance is no excuse.”
Cr Holmes said landholders were also required to place 1080 warning signs at all property entrances.
“Council will supply warning signs which must be placed at all entrances to the property and at the extremities of the property boundaries front a public thoroughfare,” she said.
“In addition to this, baits must not be laid within 5m of a fenced boundary, 5m from the edge of a formed roadway, 20m from permanent or flowing water bodies or 150m from a dwelling.”
However, Ms Greaves said the property’s large main front gate on Ryder Road had no sign, with the only sign she saw on a small private gate between properties, and not on a road.
“It’s an interesting place to put the sign,” Ms Greaves said.
“I haven’t seen any other warning signs around and they’re big front access gate on Ryder Road, which is actually facing a road and where people might see it, doesn’t have one.”
Ms Greaves said the caretaker and a council officer had apologised to her, but it was too late.
“Apologising won’t bring Q back,” she said.
“The main thing for me is the lack of notification, that just does my head in – ignorance is no excuse.”