Melanie Pitman's Story

Oak and I jpg

Re: Guide dog poisoned in Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Date: Mon, 22 Mar 2004

Dear Action Against poisoning,

My parents had been planning their extended holiday to Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, for years to see if they would both like to retire there. We have always enjoyed our family holidays in Lanzarote and had got to know other people who live out there.

My mum has been blind since the age of eighteen and has relied heavily on the use of a guide dog to get around. Her recent guide dog Oak, like all her past dogs, was like one of the family and naturally she wanted to take him with them. Under the new pet travel scheme Oak could go with my parents for their trial stay in Lanzarote.

We spent seven months in England taking Oak to the Vets for rabies injections, blood tests, and to have a microchip inserted into his neck. Every precaution was taken to ensure that Oak would not pick up any foreign diseases whilst abroad and so he could return safety to England.

After two and half months in Lanzarote, Oak became violently ill and was taken to the local Vet. My parents sat with Oak all night at the Vets to see if he would recover but in the morning he died. The Vet informed my parents that Oak had eaten poison. We found out that the local farmer, next door to where my parents were staying, places chunks of meat laced with poison over his land to stop animals walking over it. A knee-high wall separates the farmers land and the road and Oak had jumped over the wall.

Unfortunately this is not the only farmer who uses poison traps across his land and other dogs have been killed in this way. The Vet who treated Oak had also had three of her own dogs poisoned by these traps. One man told us that a neighbour had poisoned his dog because the dog had barked at him.

The meat attracts the dogs who may other wise not be on the land at all. Poison has also been found on common wasteland placed by some locals to kill stray cats and dogs. After the distressing death of Oak we found out the problem of illegal poison traps stretches right across Europe. It is a serious worry for people travelling abroad with their pets but also for children who may pick up the poisoned meat.

My parents are now left with the worry that if they want to take my mums future guide dog abroad they will not only have to ensure he cannot escape the garden but also fit him with a muzzle if they take him for a walk across open land.

Melanie Pitman