Deaths of two more dogs as campaigner looks to raise awareness of risks to pets in the Leighton Buzzard and Dunstable area

A dozen dogs have died or fallen seriously ill in a spate of possible poisonings, with one pet postmortem pointing to banned substance strychnine.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 2:31 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd March 2021, 6:34 pm

Two more dogs died earlier this month, with three dead at the start of February. Police have been looking into doggy deaths in the Totternhoe area stable since last summer.

Concerned dog lover Lindsay Stronge has started a campaign to raise awareness and pay for postmortems to be carried out to build a picture of what is causing the deaths around Totternhoe Green Lanes.

She said: “Dog owners do feel under siege and the pandemic has exacerbated things. It’s absolutely gutting that this issue has come up right now and we don’t feel safe going out in the countryside.

Nanuk the poisoned Labrador
Nanuk the poisoned Labrador

“I no longer feel able to walk my dog in that area. A lethal dose of strychnine is tiny: just one mouthful that I don’t see and my dog could die.

“There’s a cloud hanging over the local dog walking community. We don’t even know why it’s happening. Is somebody targeting wildlife and the dogs are collateral damage? The area is used by children and families and to have such a lethal banned substance in the environment, what if a child touches it?”

She said some owners had even started putting muzzles on their pets to keep them safe while out on a walk.

Lindsay added that it was not clear who was putting the poison out or even if dogs were the intended target.

Urging caution, she said: “We need to be very careful not to assume anything, we’re not assuming there’s a person targeting dogs. Sometimes dogs do die suddenly of health problems, but with our campaign, we are hoping to help bring clarity around what is happening here and dispel hysteria.

“We need evidence to prove that these incidents are linked and not every dog owner can afford the unexpected cost of a post mortem.”

Having spoken to eight families whose dogs have suddenly fallen ill after countryside walks and with details of two more, she said the pets had all been taken to different veterinary clinics, so it wasn’t immediately clear that they might have been connected.

A spokesperson for Beds Police said: “We know this can be a worrying time for many pet owners and we do not wish to alarm anyone, but we want to reassure the public that we take this type of crime very seriously and are investigating the circumstances around these incidents.

“We urge you to help us protect our communities by reporting any suspicious activity, or concerning behaviour, to us as soon as possible and only to share official information.”

Details of the latest duo of deaths are still being confirmed, but last month, the Knight family from Eggington lost their Labrador Nanuk after a walk at Totternhoe Knolls. Blood tests showed evidence of strychnine, which has been banned since 2006 and is not commercially available.

A week later, the deaths of a springer spaniel walked near the Green Lanes and a border collie that had been to Blows Down near Dunstable were both reported to police.

In July, two dogs from different homes became ill after being walked together in Totternhoe and one of them died but was cremated before a postmortem could be carried out. Before that, a German Shepherd died in June.

In November, a French bulldog survived after complex medical intervention.

A spokesperson for the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants said: “We are clearly hugely concerned about this; we have put up warning signs and also suggested people contact the police if anything suspicious is observed, plus had private correspondence with and spoken to the owner of Nanuk, as well as the police.”

She pointed out that the Green Lanes seem to be the main area linked to the incidents and that is not part of the nature reserve.

She added: “The trust does not use strychnine and has no use of any poison. We care for all wildlife and have livestock in parts of some of the Totternhoe reserves as well as our own sheepdogs.”