Dying by the day in the ‘golden triangle’

In the last week, at least seven dogs have been fatally poisoned in the area to the south of Almancil, in what locals to the area are calling ‘indisputable murder’. On a number of separate occasions, residents out walking their dogs in and around the Ria Formosa area, between Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, have been forced to watch helplessly as their pets die before their eyes in a matter of minutes.

Janine Vanderee lives on a large plot of land near the Estrada do Ancão – the main road running down to Ancão beach. She explained to The Resident how her dogs had died. “I was walking my two dogs on the land that runs parallel to mine and, after a short time, returned to my house and called for them.” When the usually obedient dogs failed to return, Janine remembers realising immediately that something was wrong. “I ran back to the area where we had been walking and saw that they were both lying on the ground, dead,” she explained. “They died during a period of no more than 10 minutes.”

Clearly very distressed by her ordeal, Janine contacted the Almancil GNR to explain the situation, but they were of no help. Unfortunately, it seems that this is not an isolated incident. Local resident, Gwenda Daud, reports that her two dogs have died in the same horrific way. She often walked them near the Pine Trees Riding Centre in Ancão. “It took 10 minutes for the poison to work – the dogs vomited, trembled, could not stand up and then finally just faded away,” recalls Gwenda who, like many other residents of this area, is distraught and fearful of what this means for the local community.

Bev Gibbons, who owns the Pine Trees Riding Centre, believes that cooked chickens stuffed with deadly poison are being left around for dogs to eat. Other residents have also seen chicken carcasses, containing what is believed by some to be Strychnine.

The area in which the dogs have been poisoned is within the boundaries of the Parque Nacional da Ria Formosa, and is afforded all the protection provided under the EU Bird and Habitat directive – which is fully incorporated into Portuguese law. The law states that leaving poison in an area that is accessible to animals and people is illegal.

A protected area

Residents are not only distressed by what is happening to their pets, they are also upset because of the lack of information about what action they should take. One resident, who watched her dog die in this brutal way, explained that he had reported the death to Almancil Freguesia, but a spokesman had explained that the poisoning did not fall under its jurisdiction. The majority of the residents we spoke to commented that the GNR seemed almost reluctant to help, leaving them uncertain that anything will actually be done.

Speaking to The Resident, the Technical Manager for Parque Nacional da Ria Formosa (PNRF), Dr. Nuno Grade, commented that, although shocking and very distressing for dog owners, poisoning has happened before and the nature of the crime makes it very difficult to uncover the perpetrator. “We have no idea who it is yet,” he explained, “but one of the poisoned dogs is currently undergoing autopsy. Once this has happened, the Almancil GNR can act.” However, he admitted that he was not confident that the person or people laying the poison would be caught. Grade also dismissed comments that the poison was Strychnine as “impossible, because it is illegal in Portugal”.

Meanwhile, Catarina Costa from Loulé Câmara’s Environmental Department, confirmed that the autopsy was going ahead, but admitted that it would be weeks before the results were returned to the câmara and the GNR.

No warning

Residents are also angry because, despite the GNR and the câmara being made aware of the situation, there has been no official warning given that people should not walk their dogs in the Ancão area. Locals to the area have now taken matters into their own hands and have put up a series of posters along the roads in the area to warn people of the danger.

• It is important to report poisoning incidents to the GNR. In addition, a report can be filed with the World Society for Protection of Animals at www.wspa.org.uk. For any more information about illegal poisoning and what to do if you suspect your pet has eaten poison, visit www.actionagainstpoisoning.com