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San Francisco pet owners warned after poisoned meatballs found

July 4, 2013 5:27:44 PM PDT
Pet owners in San Francisco are on high alert after one dog became seriously ill from eating what appears to be a poisoned meatball. Veterinarians are now warning owners to keep an eye out for some serious symptoms.

Walking a dog in San Francisco is supposed to be relaxing. But owners are facing a new stress -- the possibly poisonous meatballs left along city streets where dogs can easily find them.

"Certainly not letting them eat anything," dog owner Mike Teck said. "I'm just keeping a real close eye on them.

A 7-year-old dachshund named Oskar was rushed to the vet after eating one of the meatballs. Dr. Carrie Journey says his symptoms are consistent with strychnine poisoning.

"This is a very rapidly absorbed toxin," she said. "This is something that gets in the system within 10 to 15 minutes. So it's important that people act quickly and get to a veterinarian ASAP if they think their dog has eaten something."

But Oskar may not be the only victim. Another dog is showing symptoms of strychnine poisoning, which includes agitation, hyper-reactivity to light and noise, and seizures.

And here's the big concern for dog owners -- dozens of similar meatballs, stuffed with pellets, are being found all across the city. This includes neighborhoods like Diamond Heights, Twin Peaks, Cole Valley, and lower Haight.

One woman spotted a man collecting evidence.

"So I was like, what are you doing, and he was like, oh, gosh, you didn't hear, so and so down the street told me that her dog was in the hospital because it had allegedly been poisoned" resident Sarita Groisser said. "So he showed me what he had been collecting and he had, and I'm not exaggerating, two dozen little balls in his bag already."

Oskar's vet says he has a good prognosis if he can make it through the next 24 to 48 hours.

Neighbors wonder if this is intentional. And if so, why in the city of Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals.

"I think it's just terrible, if it was actually deliberate," Teck said. "I don't know who would do that in this neighborhood. Everyone seems so dog friendly."

Veterinarians say strychnine poisoning is not that uncommon in pets. It's often used in food to get rid of skunks, coyotes, and raccoons, and can be ingested unintentionally by other animals.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or the anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 with SFPD in the beginning of the message. If you find one of the poisoned meatballs, officials urge you to use gloves to handle them and call police.


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