Today's Date: 01 December 2015
Last Updated: 30 November 2015 19:54:03 EST
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Reward offered for paraquat poisoner

Zena, owned by Renee Knight, was poisoned by paraquat earlier this year. – PHOTO: SUBMITTED

An anonymous donor is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people poisoning dogs with paraquat in 
Grand Cayman. 

“CARE has been approached by a company that is willing to put up a reward of $2,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the paraquat poisoning of dogs. The company wants to remain anonymous,” said Alana Julie of CARE.  

The company’s largest shareholder, who contacted the Caymanian Compass, said he and other members of the company are pet owners who have become concerned about the ongoing spate of poisonings that have claimed the lives of several dogs this year. 

He said the dog poisonings and the continued sale and availability in Cayman of paraquat herbicide, which is banned or heavily restricted in several countries, was “giving a negative image of these Islands internationally”. 

The Cayman Islands Humane Society reports that in recent months it has been getting calls about dogs being poisoned every other day across the island. 

Last week, six dogs in a single area of Prospect were 
fatally poisoned. 

A petition calling for a ban on paraquat in the Cayman Islands is currently being circulated. By Wednesday, it had been signed by more than 1,660 people. 


Prevalence unknown  

The herbicide used to be available from the Cayman Islands Department of Agriculture, but the department stopped offering it for sale in 2009. However, there is are no regulations or legislation stopping any individual from importing paraquat into Cayman. 

The Cayman Islands Customs and Excise Department are unaware of how much paraquat is imported into Cayman because of the way herbicides are categorised when imported. 

The Caymanian Compass filed a Freedom of Information request with Customs and Excise which asked how much paraquat was imported in Cayman during the past four years and who imported it. The request included a list of brand name herbicides that contain paraquat. 

The Customs and Excise Department responded that its computer system does not allow for those records to be properly identified, as it would require staff “to physically pull every entry under tariff heading 38.01 from 2008 to 2012”. 

Sacha Rankine, the designate information manager for Customs and Excise, explained in a phone call to the Compass that staff input information into the computer system under individual tariff headings. Tariff 38.1 refers to “disinfectants, insecticides, fungicides, vermin poisons, herbicides, etc.” 

She said this meant that the brand names of any particular herbicides, including those containing paraquat, would not be listed in Customs’ computer system.  

A new customs tariff law was passed earlier this year, which created an expanded system of 5,000 different categories of product, compared to the current 221 categories. 

Under the new tariff system, herbicides are listed a sub-category under category 38.08, which include insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides, antisprouting products and plant-growth regulators, disinfectants and similar products. However, as there is no separate listing for individual ingredients within such products, paraquat would not be listed under this new system either. 


Fatal poison  

Laboratory tests on several dead dogs over the years have shown that they have been poisoned by paraquat and many more are suspected by the veterinarians who have had to euthanise the animals to have ingested the herbicide because they display the classic symptoms of paraquat poisoning. Paraquat poisoning is nearly always fatal, vets say. 

Once ingested, paraquat attacks the kidneys, causing irreparable damage, but most dogs that have eaten the poison die from the impact it has on the lungs. It causes lung fibrosis over a period of time, leading to a slow death as the animal eventually asphyxiates. 

According to police Superintendent Adrian Seales, only a handful of the reports of poisoned dogs that have been covered by the media have been reported to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, meaning few people whose dogs have been poisoned have reported the incidents to police.  

“In fact, the last report was made on 9 May, bringing the total number of reported incidents between January and June 2012 to four,” said Superintendent Seales. He said no one has been arrested or charged in relation to the poisoning reports. 

The Animals Law states that “a person who, wilfully, without any reasonable cause or excuse, administers or causes or procures ... administration of any poisonous or injurious drug or substance to any animal ... commits an offence of cruelty” and is liable on conviction to a fine of $4,000 and imprisonment for one year. 

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