This Dog Food Scare is Nothing

The Feds Poison Far More Cats and Dogs Annually

Professor Deborah Blum in her NYT op-ed, “Who Killed Fido? We all Did,” argues that America’s historic addiction to toxicants ultimately contributed to dogs’ food poisoning deaths. Because agribusiness routinely taints human food crops with dangerous pesticides, it is little wonder the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services blandly kills two to three million animals (including 500 dogs and 1,100 cats) each year for the purpose of agricultural protection. Most are killed with toxicants. Virtually no one complains and the media pay scant attention to this annual national travesty. Blum contends that “our lifestyle also demands innocent victims.” Will people finally take notice if innocent victims are ourselves?

In 1931, Congress passed the Animal Damage Control Act which ordered the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture to “eradicate” and “suppress” mountain lions, wolves, bears, and a whole host of “nuisance” animals. The government’s stepped-up-poisoning campaigns of the 1930s resulted in the extirpation of numerous species including wolves, grizzly bears, prairie dogs, kit and swift foxes, and jaguars.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the American Society of Mammalogists, biologists like Aldo Leopold, and activist Rosalie Edge raised alarm cries—with little avail. Not until 1964 and again in 1971, did Congress hold oversight hearings concerning the wildlife-killing agency, now known as Wildlife Services. As a result of those hearings, some abuses such strychnine poisoning on natural areas were curbed. Today, the killing continues at a staggering rate. In 2004, Wildlife Services killed a record 2.7 million animals, and in 2005, 1.7 million.

In a post 9/11 world, Wildlife Services’s program poses a national security hazard. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, the U.S.D.A. Office of Inspector General released audits revealing that Wildlife Services was not in compliance with the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act. In 2006, for instance, the Inspector General found that Wildlife Services had not secured access to toxicants from unauthorized persons; individuals using toxicants had inadequate training; and poisons’ inventories were insecure. The Inspector General visited 10 of 75 sites; none were in compliance.

Poisoning wildlife presents a chilling dark side: People and their pets are routinely are harmed by Wildlife Services. Yet, the Environmental Protection Agency, which is charged with controlling predator toxicants, fails to enforce the law.

In February 2006, a dog called Jenna accompanied Sam Pollock on a rabbit hunt in the Utah desert on federal public lands. Sam and Jenna were returning to their truck when a lure, placed on the ground by Wildlife Services, enticed Jenna. She tugged at it and a pellet of sodium cyanide shot into her mouth. Jenna died 90 seconds later. Sam, distraught, draped Jenna’s corpse over his shoulder and carried her out so he could bury her in his back yard. He later complained of a headache and a metallic taste in his mouth to an agriculture agent. Despite his secondary exposure to cyanide as a result of the negligence by Wildlife Services, no enforcement action came.

Sam’s story is hardly unique. In April 2006, another dog in close proximity to its human companion was poisoned by cyanide in Utah, again, on public lands. In 1998, when Paul Wright of Colorado went out to irrigate, his dog died from cyanide on his private land. Both Paul and his 3-year-old daughter were likely exposed to cyanide in that incident. Again, no enforcement action came from the EPA. Paul sued Wildlife Services and won a small settlement.

As Blum rightly points out, living in a pest free world comes at a huge price. It’s time to rethink whether or not all these pesticides are worth their supposed convenience. If we do not pay attention, Wildlife Services, with their aim to make America pest free, may contribute to a national tragedy—who knows how many personal tragedies they create daily? And the dog food scare, in terms of the body count, likely pales in comparison to the numbers of domestic dogs and cats that Wildlife Services kills each year.


In January, Wendy Keefover-Ring petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency asking that it ban sodium cyanide and Compound 1080, two common predator poisons that are also considered chemical warfare agents.


15 responses to “This Dog Food Scare is Nothing

  1. queenlatrans

    Richard, of course your logic is correct. But we humans are ubiquitous and so the boundaries of nexus have increased to the point where nothing in nature is undisturbed by human presence. We need to figure out a way to live our lives less toxicly–and with more respect for the ecosystem and for the wildlife in it–or we shall see it all go the way of the passenger pigeon and a myriad of other species that have vanished forever.

  2. Bottom line is these things only become pests when they/we encroach on each others “space”. The method by which control is brought is often the lowest cost in financial terms – so basically it amounts to

    $to buy method+$to deploy method
    Amount killed

    Until someone invents a “better mousetrap” expect to see rat poison sales bouyant

  3. Steve, I never mentioned wolves, I did comment on protecting the dumb mouse, and how if it is a pest to an enviro, it is ok to do whatever is necessary (I doubt you could find much support for allowing sewer rats to continue unchecked where they live, nor roaches, mosquito’s, flies, etc), but if you happen to live in “The West”, vermin must be protected.
    I’m not hypocritical at all, I have made no bones about not wanting wolves in my yard, nor do I propose inflicting them on other people. I would have just let them live where they were, and let Canada manage them as they saw fit.
    It takes someone unspeakable mean or dumb to plant them in ranch country.

  4. queenlatrans

    By their very nature, toxicants are indiscriminate. They can inadvertently kill people, pets, and protected wildlife. They contaminate soil, air, and water—and ultimately our own food supply. Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, maps out how our reliance on corn, which involves huge amounts of fertilizers has poisoned our water. Corn because it is so highly subsidized, is grown in quantities beyond our ability to use it all—so we feed it to cows, which cannot digest it. While it seems like a cheap way to fatten livestock, cattle are sickened.

    Thus, they are pumped full of antibiotics so they can manage to fatten up for a few more months even though they are made ill by corn. Guess who ultimately eats these sick cattle pumped full of steroids and antibiotics? How will that influence bacteria? Will they become more resistant?

    While seemingly convenient and an easy way to dispense instantaneous death to unwanted “pests,” pesticides really aren’t cheap. There’s long-term costs. Late last year, rat poison was causing secondary poisonings of pumas in California. Small, isolated populations were being wiped out. Taking top predators out of ecosystems has lots of unintended consequences, including changing ecosystem function, and reducing the biological diversity of a region.

    So while it might be gratifying to kill a few hundred coyotes or several thousand prairie dogs with poison, what are the effects to the ecosystem, to the planet, and ultimately to human health? I believe we’re poisoning ourselves to death. Who benefits? Not the family farmer or rancher who can barely make a living. No, it’s agribusiness, and it’s time to take a stand.

  5. Marion, you brought up wolves first prompting me to say why i would prefer non poison alternatives when killing wolves. “Then they cuss the rancher who kills predators that are competing for his livestock and pets”. This article was about pets dying because poison is so indiscriminate, it had nothing do to with the wolf controversy.

    Dont you think it is a tad hypocritical to constantly call “enviros” NIMBYS when you yourself are basically saying “I don’t have a problem with wolves as long as they are in Canada and Alaska where they belong.” Not in YOUR backyard… right, Marion?

  6. Uhhh, Steve, you might want to read back thru the comments, I believe you introduced the wolves to this thread, not me. You were putting forth YOUR preferred method of controlling wolves with a chopper. I realize money is no object when you have no responsiblity for providing it.
    As long as we are on the subject though, let me remind you that you can walk away from any thought or care about the wolves anytime. We cannot. This is a 365/24/7 concern for ranchers, it affects what they can do every minute of every day, but especially during calving and lambing season when all of the animals are msot vulnerable. This is a burden that will never let up, never get lighter, never go away.
    So please refrain from telling me how hard it is on you to read complaints about the wolves because you are tired of it. You have a choice, we do not.

  7. Why is everything about wolves to you? I think you have a fixation…

  8. You think it is getting old to you! You should be in our shoes!

  9. I think I heard you sing this song before, Marion. It is getting a little old.

  10. In the first place I don’t know that poison is an option in controlling wolves, (if we are ever allowed to do that), but the Nez Perce estimate that it costs 10,000 for every helicopter wolf kill. That is some big bucks, when you are dealing with hundred of predating wolves.
    Remember when the feds decide it is costing too much for the whole country to support the wolves and control them, it will be up to a state with less people than probably the town you live in….Plus we get to swallow the damage at the same time. Believe me the NIMBYs who want wolves in our yards have done a terrible thing that we will be paying for in many ways forever, while they go on to thinking up something else for someone to sacrifice for their pleasure.

  11. There are many alternatives to using poison for all species, Marion. If I had to choose I would rather see a wolf killed by a helicopter than by poison because for every target animal killed with poisons there are god knows how many non target animals killed.

  12. Steve, I msut say I don’t care for poison either, but I do think most folks don’t really think about it or care, they do not want to deal with pests. Then they cuss the rancher who kills predators that are competing for his livestock and pets, never thinking that theyaredoing the same thing.
    Can you imagine if everyone was forced to live with every rat, roach, fly, etc that showed up? Actually in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado they do have to live with and provide habitat for mice. They cannot even have a kitty in the Preble mouse protected area.

  13. I think if most people knew how rat poisons killed (slowly bleeding out of all of your organs) they would think twice about using them. I think the use of poisons is very psycological. Using a trap, we have to deal with the dead animal after, using poisons it crawls away and dies slowly somewhere. Out of site out of mind!

  14. Use snap-traps myself (and then ONLY WHEN THE MICE (RATS) ARE IN MY HOME OR BARN DOING DAMAGE, I don’t seek them out in the sagebrush, woods, nearby wilderness etc. “snapping on site!”) because I know: mouse (or rat) eats the poison, my cat eats the rat, the little red fox that lives in the bio hedge drags part of my dead cat back to its pups, the great horned that hangs out in the trees back behind the barn finds the rest of the cat etc. Nasty stuff, poison. Don’t like it, never have!

  15. How many pets, birds, and other animals (including rats) do you suppose are killed by rat poison? Do any of you use it? Why?