At least seven dogs have died as the result of poisoning in Mauriceville.
On Jan. 23, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office received a call concerning a dog that had possibly been poisoned in the Greenwood Acres subdivision of Mauriceville. Deputy Rocky Bridges, sheriff’s office animal control officer, responded to the area to meet with the owners of the dog, Robert and Carolyn Johnson of Orange. The Johnsons had transported their miniature Schnauzer Toby to a local veterinary clinic once they realized that he was possibly poisoned. Foskey Veterinary Clinic treated Toby and advised he is expected to make a full recovery.
The sheriff’s office began getting more calls from residents reporting poisoned dogs. Deputy Bridges canvassed the neighborhood and spoke with several residents whose dogs had died. Throughout the days and evenings of Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, more residents of Greenwood Acres contacted the sheriff’s office reporting that their dogs had been poisoned, as well.
Deputy Bridges advised that a total of seven dogs had been confirmed dead as a result of some sort of poisoning, despite reports of higher numbers. Bridges said one neighbor in the subdivision told him the count is up to 12 with some deaths being unreported. Bridges said another neighbor estimated the number of deaths to be 18. The sheriff’s office is investigating these incidents. Bridges asks that anyone who suspects their dog was poisoned call OCSO and report it.
Carolyn Johnson said she felt lucky Toby recovered from the poisoning. She recalled the incident vividly.
“I work in Galveston,” Mrs. Johnson said. “We (she and her sister) came back Wednesday morning and went to check on my sister’s dog, Bo, a Rottweiler mix. We found him dead by her house. We also saw one (dead dog) poisoned on the corner (of the street).”
She said her dog Toby had been inside during her trip, but she let him out when she got home. She said at about 5 p.m. on the afternoon of Jan. 23, Toby began having a seizure.
“We immediately took him to Foskey’s,” Johnson said. “We had him there within 30 minutes of his first seizure. He had a second one when we got there, but they were able to stabilize him.”
Mr. Johnson said one neighbor found her dog eating something unidentified and stopped the animal. She described the unidentified substance as looking like “chewed up gummy bears.” Mr. Johnson said the substance appeared to have dog kibble in it, according to his neighbor. The substance was given to deputies for identification.
Mrs. Johnson said her veterinarian advised that gopher poison or rat poison could have been put in something ingested by the dogs. The poison can be purchased at any feed store, she added. She said she hopes no children will pick up or ingest the substance, mentioning her sister’s 2-year-old grandson.
Mrs. Johnson said that while she acknowledges dogs wander the neighborhood at times, she believes they belong to people in the neighborhood.
“These are family pets, not strays,” she said. “My sister’s dog Bo was a guard dog, but he was gentle and loving to kids. Toby is a good dog, and he keeps my husband company while I am away at work. … We are just so thankful he made it.”
“He has been a godsend,” Mr. Johnson agreed.
Mrs. Johnson said she finds it a strange coincidence that a house was robbed two blocks away after the dogs were poisoned and speculated that the events could be related. However, at this time, police have not indicated there is a connection.
Regarding how the dogs were poisoned, Deputy Bridges said, “According to Foskey Vet Clinic, they believe it to be strychnine. ... We are assuming it is through some type of food.”
Dr. Blake Foskey of the Foskey Veterinary Clinic in Orange said strychnine poisoning was once more common, but he rarely sees it anymore. He said symptoms of strychnine poisoning include seizures.
“Strychnine is a neurotoxin,” Foskey explained. “It will cause seizures, uncontrollable muscle convulsions. Suddenly, the dogs’ legs will stiffen and they will fall over. They (the dogs) lock up. … In cases seen with strychnine, the seizures get worse and worse until they are so bad the dog cannot breathe. It’s so fast but not fast enough. They suffer a lot.”
Foskey said he believes the evidence in the case points to someone purposefully poisoning the animals.
“At least two of the dogs who died were in a fenced-in yard,” Foskey said. “It doesn’t seem possible it was accidental ingestion. … It’s heartbreaking, one of the worst things I’ve seen in a long time. … Who could do something like that?”
Deputy Bridges said he recently received information that two families in the Greenwood Acres subdivision had an exchange regarding the incident on a local news station’s Facebook page. He said he is trying to get in touch with the people involved in order to question them due to the nature of the comments posted. He indicated the exchange had something to do with the recent dog poisonings, adding he was not sure the information is relevant. He said the comments were deleted, and he cannot discuss the details of the posts but is following up on the tip.
Deputy Bridges said if someone is responsible for the poisonings, they face Class A misdemeanor cruelty to animals charges for each dog affected.
Call (409) 883-2612 or (409) 882-7913 if you have any information regarding this incident. The Southeast Texas Humane Society is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in this case. Call (409) 833-0504.
Sharon Brooks can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 241, or by e-mail at sharon [at] theexaminer [dot] com.