Snowmass dog died from poison, officials say

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

A Horse Ranch dog died last month after ingesting poison somewhere in the neighborhood, officials have discovered.

Snowmass Village Animal Services sent samples off for a toxicology analysis after Rio, owned by Patrick Keelty and his family, went into convulsions and died on June 27. The officers received the report last week, which showed that the chemical that killed Rio was strychnine, a strong poison that the Environmental Protection Agency says is only supposed to be used underground to control gophers.

Rio wasn’t prone to digging, and Keelty said he doesn’t think that’s how she came into contact with the poison. Keelty said he took Rio for a walk up to the top of Horse Ranch around 7 p.m. that day. About 30 minutes after they returned home, Rio began convulsing. Keelty put her in her bed, and about 45 minutes later she had died.

Residents in the neighborhood have been notified of the death and asked to examine the type of pesticides they use. Animal Services officer Tina White said her department could cite someone for illegally using the pesticide, but most likely they wouldn’t if the poisoning was unintentional. Mostly they want to identify the source of the poison and eliminate it.

White said officers are concerned because strychnine can cause extreme health effects and even death for other wildlife, pets, children and adults. People most likely wouldn’t come into contact with it if it’s being used properly and is only under the ground, she said.

Strychnine has been used to control vertebrate animals for many years, but its use has been restricted by the EPA since 1978, the agency’s website says. Above-ground uses of strychnine were prohibited in 1988.

Because of that restriction, pesticides that contain strychnine aren’t used that commonly anymore, White said. The officers called area pest-control agencies and none of them use strychnine products, she said.

“People should hire professionals” if they want to manage rodents on their property so they can make sure and do it safely, Keelty said.

The Keeltys adopted an 8-week-old Rio from Colorado Animal Rescue in 2008. She was a Shiba Inu-Australian Shepherd mix and weighed about 30 pounds.

“She was a great dog,” Keelty said. “Just a family dog.”

Anyone with information about the poisoning should contact Animal Services at 970-923-5300.


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