Pet owners fear pest-control poison put down across their housing development is killing their animals.
At least two healthy dogs have died in the last five weeks, and the Animal Welfare Centre confirmed two cases of poisoning over a seven-month period.
But the total number of deaths in Ras Al Khaimah’s Al Hamra area is uncertain because most owners bury pets immediately.
One owner found her dog, Safira, dead on the area’s golf course with foam around her mouth. The animal had run away two hours previously and had been in good health.
“When I found her I couldn’t believe it,” said the owner, Orsina, a German who has lived in Al Hamra for three years. “It was just too sad.”
One of the first dogs to die was Molly, a four-year-old German Shepherd who died of liver failure in November after weeks of being ill.
“She went from such a beautiful German Shepherd to one that was dead within a month,” said her owner, Claire Angel, an Al Hamra resident since 2005. “She was actually bleeding on the inside out. It’s an awful way of dying and there was nothing we could do.”
Officials in RAK said they would investigate.
“It could be the way the pesticide is being used,” said Dr Saif Al Ghais, head of the Environmental Protection and Development Authority-Ras Al Khaimah (Edpa–RAK). “We will monitor it and visit the area.”
The Animal Welfare Centre said it could not determine what killed the dogs they attended to. “Unfortunately we were not able to establish the type of the poisoning or even the source of the poisoning,” said Chenjerai Sigauke, the vet.
There are 500 pest-control boxes on the ground at Al Hamra, a development of 2,500 apartments and 1,000 villas and townhouses. Only one resident has registered an official complaint with management.
“Regular pest control is part of the maintenance services at Al Hamra Village and in several cases has been requested by residents, specifically for rat control,” said a spokesperson. “We will be issuing a pest-control treatment cycle or schedule that will be generic for each and every month.”
The boxes contain bromadiolone, an anti-coagulant rat poison that causes internal haemorrhaging.
“All products used by NPC [National Pest Control] are approved by the UAE Government and Ministry of Environment and Water,” said Al Hamra’s spokesperson.
The boxes are tier-one grade, approved by the US Department of Agriculture, and have a 0.005 per cent concentration of active ingredients.
“It’s our family and to be afraid to walk them, even on the street, it’s too much,” said Svetlana Katzer, 28, an Al Hamra resident whose dog Dexter died last month. “They promised to remove them but now there are more boxes than before.”
Dexter, a mixed Saluki, was found partially decomposed five days after going missing. He had been poisoned once before, after a walk on the golf course, but was saved by a vet. There are no pesticide boxes on the golf course.
“No treatment has been carried out on the golf course by the NPC,” said Al Hamra’s spokesperson. “However, the golf course continues to request assistance from RAK Animal Welfare for the control of wild dogs, foxes and donkeys on the course. No poison is used.”
Victoria Daniel, from South Africa, said her cat, Meow, died in November after foaming at the mouth for two days.
“[The vet] said definitely poison,” Ms Daniels said. “We’re so worried that this is going to happen again.”
Residents are asking to be consulted about the use of poison.
“It makes me angry, why weren’t people informed?” Orsina said. “I think it’s a very high level of poison because my dog was very healthy and fit and she was not so small. If a small child eats it...”
The pesticide company must present a management plan to the Edpa-RAK or risk closure. There is no firm deadline, said Dr Al Ghais.