January 15, 2021

Rescue dog dies after eating illegally set poison in Knockmealdown Mountains

A six-year-old dog in training to be an invaluable search and rescue animal tragically lost her life this week after she ingested some poison illegally set to kill wildlife in the Knockmealdown Mountains.

Bonnie, a black Labrador bitch, had been in training to be a trailing dog for the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA). Tragically Bonnie came across some poisoned bait on the Blackwater Way last Sunday while out training with her handler Jim O’Brien.

Bonnie fell ill and was taken to a local vet but unfortunately passed away on Tuesday.

Local SARDA member Gerry Tobin confirmed to WaterfordNow.ie that an investigation into Bonnie’s death has been launched by the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Despite it being illegal since the mid 1990’s, poison is still being used to kill predatory animals such as foxes and badgers, and birds like buzzards, eagles and falcons in rural areas around the country.

Bonnie was due to be SARDA’s first trailing dog among a team of six search and rescue dogs nationwide. Four of SARDA’s dogs are based in the South East.

“Search dogs can be the difference between somebody living and somebody dying,” Gerry said.

“If we are in a situation that we have to think before we deploy a rescue dog in case we lose them because of poisoning, we may well end up hesitating before deploying that dog.

“Put it in this context, if a guide dog or an assistance dog had gone in there and found that bait, you could imagine the impact that would have on the life of their handler. You could imagine the questions that would be asked.

“Actions like this potentially compromise our ability to be able to deploy our dogs in certain areas, that could be the difference between life and death,” Gerry concluded.

SARDA took to Facebook to pay tribute to what they described a “beautiful and talented dog”.

“Tragic news in the last few days, as Bonnie, a SARDA Ireland Trainee Trailing Dog died after she ate poison that had been deliberately put out on the hill with the intention of targeting wildlife. She and her handler Jim O’Brien were training in the foothills of the Knockmealdowns when the incident occurred.

“Bonnie was a beautiful and talented dog who no doubt would have become one of our first SARDA Ireland Trailing Dogs. A tragic loss for Jim, who has lost his beloved pet, and a huge loss to the SARDA Ireland Trailing Dog Team,” the statement concluded.

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