Thieves poison dogs to burgle homes

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Dogs are like family members: Ulalei with one of her surviving dogs, Buddy. Photo: Iain McGregor.

Dogs are like family members: Ulalei with one of her surviving dogs, Buddy. Photo: Iain McGregor.

Residents have been warned to be on the lookout for thieves who poison dogs in a neighborhood and burgle the homes of the dog-owners a week or two after their dogs die.

Ulalei Keil Van Heeswyk, a resident of Vaoala, said two of her dogs had to be put down after it was poisoned. She later found out that four other families in her neighborhood also had their dogs poisoned and their homes robbed a week or two later.

“Some of the families in our area who had their dogs poisoned were later robbed a week or two later. Right now in our neighborhood, it’s really eerie because it’s so silent. It’s unusual to have uninterrupted sleep because there are always dogs barking and playing up the street,” she said. 

“It feels like something is going to happen because we have a family friend that lives down Paul ave. We met her at the vet the day we took our dog, Sasha, and she was doing the same thing for her two dogs that were poisoned.”

Three weeks prior to their dogs being poisoned, the Keil Van Heeswyk family residence was burgled as the family had a large gathering in their backyard.  Wallets and passports were stolen and two weeks ago, Ulalei noticed that her one-year-old dogs were not their usual selves.

“It was really weird because that was Monday then Friday we noticed another dog was acting the same way. They weren’t eating first of all, they also showed massive weight loss overnight, they were suddenly so small, we could see and count their ribs as well. They weren’t barking, not playing and being really slow, not wagging their tails.”

According to local vet Lilomaiava Ken Lameta and Animal Protection Society (A.P.S.) representative, the most common poison used is a weed killer that farmers use called paraquat, which can burn and damage internal organs when ingested by dogs after eating food that is laced with this chemical.

“Usually you will notice their eyes are sunken in and their eyes and their gums become blue and the reason is because they are running out of oxygen. They will be breathing heavily, the poor thing is suffering,” he said.

Ulalei was deeply upset during the week she tried to save her dogs until she was advised by the vet to have them euthanized as the most humane solution. 

“One of the dogs, Sasha, suffered for a whole week until we realised that this is too painful for her and we should put her down. Sasha was dehydrated and starving because her esophagus was burned from the poison and she was unable to eat or drink anything. We were trying to do everything that we could for her and some days she was more alert and we got our hopes up and we thought maybe, let’s keep going, she might survive because she would bark and that was a good sign. But then on the last day, she was not moving and she couldn’t really walk so we had to put her down.”

The Sunday Samoan asked Ulalei what she would say to her dog killers if they were standing in front of her, Ulalei’s eyes immediately filled with tears and in a shaky voice says: “I don’t know if I would say anything. I just want to hurt them back. It’s not just an animal to us, they’re family and they also protect us. No one deserves to have an inhumane and cruel death like that. They’ve got to imagine themselves or one of their children swallowing that poison and them not being able to eat and suffering until death.

“I was really upset, I cried a lot. They were like part of our family and Sasha my dog was looking at me as if she knew what was happening, her eyes were so big and I was just thinking, why? Why do people do this?”

Ulalei appealed to people with pet dogs who are being poisoned to report them to the Police, in order to keep a record of such incidences and to remind the public that such acts are criminal and carry a jail sentence.

Lameta said in 99 per cent of cases where dogs have been poisoned, it was a deliberate move and the Police were notified and are looking into it.

“Some of the reasons I can think of is for one, dogs can be poisoned because they are too vicious and have bitten someone. Here in town, I’ve asked the dog management hnit to see if we can work together to try and see the prevalence of break-ins especially with the families of those who have had their dogs poisoned,” he said. 

“They come in and poison the dogs and then they come back a week later and attack the houses because the dogs are not there.  I’ve had three families with the same problem recently, their dogs were poisoned and then the next one or two weeks later, their houses were broken into. One was in Vaitele and two were up at Cross Island Road. In fact, that’s where we get most of our cases like this, up at Cross Island Road. There’s one particular place there were five families on one stretch of road that have had their dogs poisoned. The Police are following it up but they think it’s a deliberate move.”

Lameta also raised concerns that proper procedures are not followed when selling chemicals like weed killers to the public. 

“The farmers are supposed to register for the use of chemicals and they’re supposed to present that registration to any agricultural or farmer suppliers. However, I think there may be some incidences of regular people just buying them over the counter without the proper credentials.”

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