‘I didn’t have a gun’: Dog owners’ most horrific day
WARNING: DISTRESSING VIDEO
All a shocked Kaylah Hartcher could do was hold her dogs as they thrashed around and struggled to breathe.
She did not have a gun and there was no time to call a vet.
Within two hours, the 23-year-old's three beloved dogs were suddenly all dead.
"It is the most horrific and saddest time to have to hold them for the last time while they are having a seizure and struggling to breathe, taking their last breath...Some people, like myself had no idea what was happening until it was all over," Miss Hartcher wrote on Facebook.
"I don't have a gun, I couldn't get a hold of an after-hours vet quick enough late at night to try and do something."
Blue Heeler, Cleo, 4, Daisy, a 1-year-old border collie, and Kevie, a 6-year-old staffy cross from the Port Douglas-based Paws and Claws rescue group, were all gone, victims of suspected 1080-baiting in Far North Queensland on June 11.
"Our dogs are our family, our other babies, and someone has now taken them away from us all in a short two hours," she wrote.
"(It was) the most horrible day I've ever experienced."
Miss Hartcher is one of more than 300 people who are upset a neighbouring council is legally permitting more than 900 1080-injected baits to be laid throughout part of the Atherton Tablelands this week.
The joint Tablelands Regional Council (TRC) and Malanda Beef Plan Group (MBPG) 1080 baiting campaign, which started Saturday and runs for seven days, targets feral dogs in the Northeast part of the 11,000 sqkm TRC region.
Many large property owners lay baits to protect their livestock from being mauled by wild or wandering dogs., which not only harms or kills animals but can also cause financial and emotional stress to the farmers.
'NASTY AND CRUEL'
Miss Hartcher of Mt Molloy - which is part of the nearby Mareeba Shire Council and not part of the TRC - said she wants 1080 banned after seeing the way her dogs suffered.
"I want 1080 to be illegal," she told the Courier Mail.
"It's nasty and cruel."
Depending on the pest animal targeted, meat, grain or carrots are injected with a chemical called sodium fluoroacetate, commonly known by its brand name of 1080, to turn it into fatal baits.
The highly toxic, odourless pesticide - which has no antidote - is used by the Australian government and private landholders to kill introduced "pest animals" such as dingoes, foxes, cats, rabbits, pigs, and in some cases, native wildlife.
The toxin is so lethal that animals who simply lick the saliva or vomit of a poisoned animal, usually die from secondary poisoning a short time later.
In the rare case an animal survives, it suffers from lifelong neurological impairment.
Miss Hartcher told the Courier Mail she believes her dogs were targeted and suspects someone had possibly stored some unused bait from a previous baiting campaign.
"I've reported it to police, but nothing could be done because I didn't have video evidence," she said.
"The council couldn't do anything because they hadn't given out permits for baits to be laid at that time of year.
"Therefore it must have been old bait that farmers pass on to their 'friends' from last year's bait season."
Participants in council-run programs must sign a deed poll or, alternatively, obtain an endorsement from Queensland Health, to buy and use 1080 and some of the other S7-scheduled poisons, stating they agree to follow the rules set out under state legislation.
Some of the regulations include notifying all neighbours within a certain distance and erecting signs warning 1080 was being used in the area.
Baits are also required to be tied down or buried, in efforts to reduce them being consumed by native wildlife or carried off by birds.
Poisoned carcasses and unused baits at the end of a campaign must be retrieved and destroyed.
A 2008 review by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) found that, if 1080 injected meat baits were not taken, they were likely to remain lethally toxic to dogs and foxes for up to eight weeks, depending on rainfall and temperature, and may retain toxicity for up to a year under arid conditions.
FOR AND AGAINST SIDES AGREE: LACK OF POLICING OF 1080
But both opponents and proponents of the poison have claimed some baiting programs in some areas had been mismanaged, resulting in both confirmed and suspected deaths of "non-target" animals, with many questioning who policed the bait users to ensure the state legislation was being followed.
There was no indication the TRC and MBGP baiting program had been mismanaged, with council spokesman, Mark Vis, telling the Courier Mail officers "actively" checked neighbour notifications during their program.
Almost all of the owners claimed there had been no letterbox notifications or warning signs about baits being in the area at the time their pets suddenly died.
The goats and most of the dogs died in their own yards after finding a bait that some suspect may have been dropped by a bird.
A devastated Miss Hartcher said she had already buried her three dogs before she discovered investigators required an autopsy to prove they were poisoned by 1080.
A 2019 Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) publication advises Queensland Health should be contacted if a non-target animal is suspected of dying as a result of the poison.
"If non-target animals are suspected of dying as a result of a 1080 baiting program, Queensland Health should be contacted so that it can be properly investigated and, where possible, the appropriate test be undertaken," it states.
But Queensland Health documents state non-target deaths will not be investigated without autopsy results.
Misuse of 1080 may constitute an offence under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 or the Nature Conservation Act 1992, according to the DAF publication.
"The maximum penalty for not complying with conditions in the agreement for provision of baits is … in excess of $10,000 from 1 July, 2017," it states.
It is because of the increasing reports of alleged misuse that Marilyn Nuske from the 1080 Legal Action & Resources Facebook has urged people to contact the APMVA to demand a new review of the use of 1080.
Besides the Queensland deaths this year, There have been several more pet deaths of around the nation and in previous years, according to the Coalition of Australians against 1080 Poisoning.
A Biosecurity Queensland spokesman said a review into 1080 would also need to be undertaken by the administering authority, Queensland Health, as any reports of misuse of 1080 baits or noncompliance with the guidelines must be reported to that department.
To request a review into the use of 1080 in Queensland, email Queensland Health: SCPHU@health.qld.gov.au
To request a review into the use in Australia, email the APMVA: firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published as 'I didn't have a gun': Dog owners' most horrific day