Federal Agents Killed Dog with Sodium Cyanide
Salt Lake City – Today, Roosevelt, Utah resident and U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee Sam Pollock, with the aid of attorney Joel Ban, filed a claim against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture for the death of his dog, Jenna, and for his secondary exposure to deadly cyanide gas. Mr. Pollock demands $100,000 in compensation under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The filing arises from events on February 21, 2006, while Mr. Pollock was rabbit hunting on Brough Reservoir, a popular recreational area that is located 15 miles southwest of Vernal, Utah (northeastern Utah). Tragically, while walking on a public road, on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Jenna was poisoned by a sodium cyanide trap, called an “M-44,” that was placed on the road by Wildlife Services. As Mr. Pollock carried Jenna’s corpse back to his truck, he was also poisoned by cyanide gas; he experienced a headache and metallic taste in his mouth.
“Wildlife Services failed to warn my client when it put out sodium cyanide on federal public lands,” said Joel Ban, a public interest environmental attorney, who practices in Salt Lake City. “As a result of Wildlife Service’s negligence, the agency killed my client’s dog with deadly cyanide gas and caused bodily harm to Mr. Pollock,” he added.
Wildlife Services, a federal agency operating under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is dedicated to the “control” of predators and other animals that are considered a nuisance to livestock operators and farmers. The agency also “unintentionally” kills several thousand species each year. Wildlife Services traps, poisons, and shoots millions of animals annually:
• In 2003, 1.7 million total animals; 15,050 animals by sodium cyanide including 108 dogs, 13,000 coyotes, one bald eagle, and one grey wolf;
• In 2004, 2.8 million total animals; 11,980 animals by sodium cyanide including 117 dogs, 11,000 coyotes, and no endangered species.
• In 2005, 1.7 million total animals; 12,726 animals by sodium cyanide, including 92 dogs, 12,000 coyotes, and one bald eagle.
In January 2007, 16 conservation groups, led by Sinapu, petitioned the EPA and asked them to ban two predator poisons, sodium cyanide and Compound 1080. “In the federal government’s dirty little war against wildlife, it kills many non-targeted species including family dogs and endangered animals. They are simply collateral damage,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, director of Sinapu’s carnivore protection program.
By the edge of the road and between two rocks, a smell enticed Jenna. She tugged on a lure sticking up from the ground that was specifically intended to attract wild canids such as coyotes and foxes, but also entices domestic dogs. A pellet of sodium cyanide shot into Jenna’s mouth from a spring-loaded device called an M-44. Mr. Pollock heard a commotion and whipped around.
“Jenna started gagging, frothing, and then threw up,” said Sam Pollock. “I saw the M-44 and I knew immediately knew what it was. I held her in my arms. She was terrified and scared, but I was completely helpless. She died in my arms about 90 seconds after she was poisoned,” added Mr. Pollock.
When Mr. Pollock first entered Brough Reservoir he recalled seeing a sign that warned the public of the M-44 devices being used in the area, but in violation of Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) use restrictions for M-44s, he did not see any signs near the M-44 itself. Also in violation of the use restrictions, the M-44 was placed directly on a public road. The use restrictions require that these traps be placed at least 50 feet from a road or pathway.
The Utah Department of Food and Agriculture investigates restricted used pesticides on behalf of the EPA. Yet, they delayed their investigation for approximately one month. The state went to the spot where Jenna had allegedly died, but failed to take Mr. Pollock with them so he could confirm the location.
In another strange twist, the government insists that the powerline maintenance road is a “utility trail,” not a “road” since it is unmaintained and not on a map. For this reason, the Wildlife Service, the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture, and the EPA have concluded that they are compliance with federal laws and have denied any culpability in Jenna’s death and Mr. Pollock’s exposure to cyanide.
Mr. Pollock, frustrated by the agency’s contempt for public safety, stated, “Most people don’t know that poisonous cyanide traps are regularly placed on federal public lands, and they are a real danger to people, especially children.”
Joel Ban, Attorney at Law: 801.532.2447
Wendy Keefover-Ring, Sinapu: 303.447.8655, Ext. 1#