Warning to Northern Ireland dog owners after family pet 'poisoned' on beach walk
A Belfast mother left devastated after her family dog died suddenly in what she suspects is a poisoning incident has urged animal owners to be careful on Co Down beaches.
Naomi Walker had been walking her border collie Cooper at Ballywalter beach on Sunday.
She described becoming alarmed when he remained lethargic and rushed him to their local vet, but nothing could be done to save him.
Naomi believes there was dog food left around the picnic area that had been spiked with antifreeze, but she was also aware of a plant in the area which is toxic to dogs. She is not sure which her dog may have ingested.
"We had him out on the beach and just thought he was exhausted," she said. "He lay down and had a nap. That would not be unusual, but he didn't really come round and didn't want his dinner. He just wasn't himself.
"We took him up to bed with us, I was just checking on him and could feel his heart going quickly. I called the vet and she said to bring him up straight away. Within 15 minutes we were told he wasn't going to make it. Within an hour he had gone. It was about 5.30am."
Naomi said her family, which includes three children, had owned Cooper since he was eight weeks old.
"If he had been sick, you maybe could have got your head around it, but having been at the beach one minute, and then he had gone the next minute, it's hard to believe," she said.
"My worry also is that both of the poisons are also toxic to kids and I would urge people to be careful on the beaches."
Social media reported another dog becoming unwell and dying after a walk at Seapark.
A spokesperson for Ards and North Down Council said: "We are aware of previous incidences where the poison parsnips, known as Hemlock Water Dropwort root, have been the source in areas along our coast; the wet winter climate seems to see an increased growth of the plant.
"If the public comes across the root they should not touch the plant with bare hands. If they wish, they can pick it up using protective gloves, double bag it and dispose of it in a bin.
"We would encourage dog owners to keep a close eye on their pets when walking in public areas, making sure they don't eat anything they shouldn't.
"If anyone comes across what they think is the plant, they can send the council a photo and details of where they found it."