City Desk

Is Someone Poisoning Dogs in Stanton Park?

RatPoisonCapitol Hill has a lot more dog fans than, say, ice cream truck fans. That's why frequenters of Stanton Park were likely freaked out to find numerous warning signs posted around the green space this week, alerting pet owners of possible evil lurking about in the form of little greenish-blue pellets of rat poison.

It seemed a sinister plan was at work. The pellets were just the sort of thing a pooch might scarf down, and they had been placed "adjacent to the area frequented by off-leash dogs," according to the signs. The author of the unsigned warning claimed to have found the poison on June 6.

City Desk called the District's Department of Health (DOH) about the potential poison scattering. DOH informed us that if there was any poison flung around Stanton Park that day, the District wasn't resposible for it. When the city applies rat poison to a site, the poison is placed inside rat holes that are then covered up, a department spokesperson explained.

City Desk's own search of the park turned up plenty of cigarette butts, matchbooks, salt and pepper packets, ziplock bags and one crisp, blue M&M. But no poison.

Kyle Mackintosh, 24, whose brown lab-shepherd mix bounded around the park during our hunt, didn't see any either.  Mackintosh frequents the park and wasn't too worried about the warnings: "My dog's still alive," he joked, "so he hasn't found it yet."

City officials sent entomologist Baldwin G. Williams to inspect the park. In an email, Williams reported finding no poison, although he did offer a possible explanation. "Beneath several benches I noticed some small greenish bluish cylindrical fruits that fell from nearby ornamental trees." he writes. "They look somewhat like common pelletized rodent bait."

Photo by Rend Smith

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  • John Mitchell

    Hey Rend... nice article. Why don't you just come right out and say it: (1) you don't believe the story about the rat poison, and (2) you don't care if it's true. On second thought, no need because it's pretty obvious from your tone anyway.

  • Rambler

    Just a heads' up for enterprising cub reporters out there: D.C.'s notorious Office of Tax & Revenue (OTR) is issuing crap underpayment notices to D.C. taxpayers. OTR ignores W-2 withholding payments to claim D.C. taxpayers underpaid their income taxes, then OTR adds penalties & interest. In fact, OTR's arithmetic is embarrassing: it credits only ONE-TENTH of actual withheld income taxes. Obviously, D.C. is so strapped for cash it is looking for any possible trick to delay giving income tax refunds this year. I guess this is what we get for trusting Fenty's claim that he hired the best & brightest managers.

  • Blue Pen kill rats, guess what? You gotta use poison. Dogs are supposed to be on leash. Being so, they will be very unlikely to ingest the rat poison, if there was any to ingest.

    The city has got to start doing a better job killing rats.

  • inked

    Blue Pen,
    private citizens shouldn't be using poison to kill anything on park land. Anyone leaving packets of rat poison out on the ground in such a park is not only putting dogs in danger, but also SMALL CHILDREN.

  • Blue Pen

    Right. DoH needs to be doing a much better job. They need to be doing more than answering phones saying no, we're not doing anything about the rats.

  • Jamie

    @John Mitchell, What part of this don't you believe: that City Desk didn't find any poison, that the dog owner they spoke to hadn't seen any either, or the quote from the entomologist?

    Ah, I suppose you would prefer the Facebook/unverified random blogger version: post a picture of the sign, followed by "Be careful out there folks!! Someone's trying to poison dogs and you could be the next victim!! Who knows how many dogs have died so far!"

    This is, in fact, actual reporting. The reporter went to check it out themselves, and talked to other people and even an expert. There is no indication, either from the sign or from anyone else, that any dogs have become sick. However, the expert had a very reasonable explanation about what could be behind this, which CP merely quoted.

    I suppose, though, if you already have your own opinion about the situation, perhaps because it is you who is posted the signs, then "actual reporting" is less interesting to you than creating drama where none is warranted.

  • John Mitchell

    @Jamie: Thanks for attempting to credit me, but I didn't post any signs. (For reals.)

    As for the rest of your rejoinder, please read my comment again. I never stated my disbelief of a single thing in the article. I have no reason to doubt that Smith found no poison and spoke to/emailed the persons cited. The concern I raised was for the obvious lack of objectivity.

    What rankles is the overall bemused tone ("one crisp blue M&M") and lack of balance. Smith opens with a mocking tone by including a non-sequitur in the first line that suggested a bias against dog owners. (Or is it Capitol Hill residents generally?) Discussion of this topic has popped up around the Hill on listservs and with local professional dog walkers -- so the reporter could easily have found a voice of legitimate concern to quote along side the insouciant Mr. Mackintosh. The author's bias is so clear that it evinces an antagonism towards people who might be concerned. "What, deliberate dog poisoning could never occur in this city -- it must all be paranoia and conspiracy theories!"

    Jamie, it's rather sad that you accuse me of "creating drama" or having "my own opinion about the situation." The whole implicit message of a story like this one was to send an "F.U." to people who care about this topic. The City Paper should not be surprised when it pisses people off.

  • Blue Pen

    I disagree. I tend to the think the author of this piece was overly fearful of rat poison, and lock stock and barrel bought into the whole hysteria over those who are against off leash dogs.

    The sign was posted either by a true dog owner who wanted to generate backlash against people who complain about off leash dogs. Or, it was posted by someone who hates it when dogs are off leash and wanted to frighten dog owners into getting their dogs back on leash.

    I'd be surprised if there was a third possibility.

    If CityPaper really wanted to be useful and publish something that could help, they would tell us the number and name of their contact at DoH so that park goers could call to get them to come and bait because right now, the rats own the parks.