AR-News: Wildlife Being Poisoned By Euthanized Animals
wolffnm at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 5 07:49:57 EDT 2003
FWS warns improper disposal of euthanized pets could
lead to fine
July 5, 2003
By SCOTT McMILLION, Chronicle Staff Writer
Ending the life of a beloved dog, cat or horse is
But if you don't dispose of the carcass properly, you
can wind up killing a lot more than your pet, the
federal government is warning, and you might wind up
facing some hefty fines.
Sodium pentobarbital is the drug of choice for many
veterinarians euthanizing pets.
However, the drug can linger in the animal's flesh and
organs after death and endanger the lives of eagles
and other scavengers that find a carcass, the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service warned this week.
More than 130 bald and golden eagles have died from
confirmed secondary pentobarbital poisoning, FWS said.
Horses in particular are often left exposed to
"It's pretty common in the rural areas that they're
left out in the open," said Roger Gephart, a law
enforcement agent for FWS in Colorado. "Birds are
Euthanized animals should be incinerated or properly
buried, laws in most states say.
Montana law allows euthanized animals to be left
unburied in the open, according to officials at the
Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the
Department of Livestock, as long as they aren't near
roads, water sources or homes.
However, if birds die from eating the meat, that could
violate federal migratory bird or endangered species
law and invoke fines up up to $200,000, according to
Some birds die immediately after eating the meat,
though others fly for miles first. Then they get dopey
and die in vehicle collisions, predator attacks,
drowning or in falls from perches "while sedated by
the drug." They also feed contaminated meat to
Secondary poisoning often is unreported and is "not a
rare situation by any means," an FWS fact sheet says.
A variety of birds and scavenging mammals are
susceptible to the drugged carcasses, FWS warns, and
domestic dogs have died from eating the tainted flesh.
In addition, zoos that accidentally fed the carcasses
to captive animals have documented the deaths of
tigers, cougars and lions.
Accidental poisonings have been confirmed in 14 states
across the country, including Montana.
Gephart said one confirmed case was found in Montana
in 1991 and involved an eagle dying after it scavenged
a horse carcass.
Pentobarbital is commonly used when an animal must be
put down, said Neil Anderson, lab biologist for the
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in
"If you have to euthanize an animal, it's probably the
drug of choice," he said, because it lets the animal
All euthanized animals from that lab are incinerated,
Gephart said FWS hopes to avoid problems in the
"Our goal is to educate and save the wildlife without
having to prosecute the people," he said.
A veterinarian and a rancher in Colorado had to pay
civil penalties for eagle deaths there, he said. That
money financed a recent study examining the problem
around the country.
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