Reading family’s dogs die after apparently ingesting rat poison

READING, Mass. — A Reading family whose two dogs died after apparently ingesting rat poison is urging the public not to use such lethal substances for rodent control.

Greg Sutcliffe told Boston 25 News his six-year-old yellow Labrador retriever Bucky and his mother-in-law’s seven-month-old black Lab Shep slipped out the front door on New Year’s Eve. Sutcliffe was able to corral them and bring the happy-go-lucky pair home within about 25 minutes of their escape but not before the two got into a deadly substance.

“Mere minutes later, it was pandemonium in kitchen, and the puppy was having this horrible seizure – and uncontrollable,” Sutcliffe said. “We tried to calm him, but nothing was working. And we went right to the hospital in Woburn and were told pretty quickly that the puppy wasn’t going to make it.”

Soon after, Sutcliffe received a call that his own dog was suffering from the same violent convulsions. Bucky, too, was rushed to the vet. Both had to be euthanized.

“It’s ingrained in my mind. I never want to see any animal ever put through that, no matter what. It was horrific,” Sutcliffe said. “The symptoms that they showed and how they died, it’s indescribable.”

Veterinarians told Sutcliffe it appeared the dogs had ingested rat poison, likely containing the highly toxic substance strychnine. Sutcliffe believes they might have come into contact with it on a nearby vacant property that is under construction.

Reading police announced on social media they are investigating the case along with the health department and animal control officers.

“Strychnine is highly toxic and kills domestic animals as well as local wildlife accidentally and indiscriminately,” police said. “While this is being looked into, please keep your pets under close control and monitor what they are getting into.”

Meanwhile, Sutcliffe, whose young children witnessed the tragedy, urges others to work with their local health departments and talk to pest control companies about non-lethal options for rodent control.

“For a four-year-old and a 1.5-year-old to see their beloved animals die essentially in front of them, it’s not right,” Sutcliffe said. “It’s kind of gone from shock to anger. There’s just no need for how they died… They were just two phenomenal dogs.”