This is Max, a much-loved 4 year-old kelpie. He died a miserable death from 1080 poisoning, and his family is still grieving — and angry.
In Australia, the use of 1080 poison is widespread to kill introduced animals such as foxes or wild dogs, as well as native animals such as dingoes. Only a few other countries use 1080, including New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Israel, and very restricted use in the United States. 1080 is not approved in many other countries because of concerns regarding potential human, and other off-target, poisoning.
State governments who authorise its use see no problem. For example, in South Australia the Primary Industries Department says: “1080 is the most efficient, humane, and species-specific pesticide available for pest animal control in Australia. … After the poison takes effect, the dog or fox is initially disorientated and then becomes unconscious and cannot feel pain.”
However, a study by researchers at Deakin University, and the experience of people whose canine companions have died, say otherwise. As the researchers note:
“Use of sodium monofluoroacetate – commonly known as 1080 – to kill unwanted animals is widespread in Australia. But it occurs largely out of sight and out of mind. We may see signs warning the baits have been laid, but we rarely see its consequences. … But companion animals such as dogs can also consume the baits. Their suffering, often witnessed by owners, provides important insights into what wild animals experience when poisoned.”
The death of Max
Max, a 4 year-old kelpie, was one such dog who died. Here is his story, as told by his family.
“On Friday 16th June 2023, in an official government designated pet-friendly camping and fossicking ground in Queensland, he consumed 1080. There were no warning signs of baits having been laid in the area. We’d been watching out for them along the way on what was to be our 3 month holiday.
Max started to vomit approximately 3 hours after we had set up camp. This continued on and off for approx 3 hours. Then all of a sudden, he started running wildly, banging his tortured body into everything within his lead range. His yelps sounded horrible, his cries were heart breaking. He started convulsing and screaming in agonizing pain. You could see the fear in his eyes. There was nothing we could do to help. We were miles from
help, not that anything could have be done. Geoff held onto him and comforted him as he passed away. This is the most cruelest way to murder a defenceless animal.
Max’s death will haunt us every minute of every day and night for the rest of our lives. Max was the most loving dog. He loved everyone he met and would cuddle everyone who patted him. He had the most gentle soul. He never fought with other dogs, and preferred to ignore their snarls by just walking away. We always said “he is a lover, not a fighter”. We adopted Max just a short 1 1/2 years ago after he failed farm school. Max spent every minute of every day with us and was never left at home alone. If Max wasn’t invited, we didn’t attend. Max was the best mate ever. We are so very heart broken and don’t know if we’ll ever come to terms with the way he died. 1080 is used widely in South Australia. Please help to ban this and other indiscriminate poisons.”
The death of Luna and Bear
Unfortunately Max’s death is not the only case of 1080 poisoning — there are many others. Here is the story of Luna and Bear, as told by their family:
“Both of our dogs died this morning due to ingesting 1080. Unknown to us our boy Bear ate it and three hours later he died the most horrible death. He used his last bit of life to get to his bonded mate, Luna, where he died as my partner held him.
We didn’t know what was going on. Luna seemed fine… until she wasn’t. Three hours after we lost Bear, Luna started exhibiting symptoms. We rushed her to the vet, where her heart stopped three times. We got a call this morning that the fourth time her heart stopped she couldn’t be revived.
I never knew what 1080 was. I can’t get our babies’ faces out of my mind – contorted, terrified and in obvious pain. I woke up this morning thinking I heard the dogs playing and barking in the yard. My daughter woke up at the same time and said she thought she heard them, too. I can’t bring myself to shower in our bathroom because that’s where I was when I heard Bear’s screams. No animal deserves to die this way.”
What does the Animal Welfare Act say?
Neither the Animal Welfare Act (1985) nor the Animal Welfare Regulations (2012) make any mention of poisons. There are regulations about traps, what types may be used and where. but nothing about animals being poisoned. In other words, they have absolutely no protection. An animal that has been labelled a “pest” is just as sentient as one who is a family pet, so this exclusion is completely unacceptable.
According the the Act, it is an offence to kill an animal in a way that causes unnecessary pain, or in a way that does not cause death as rapidly as possible, but this doesn’t appear to apply to the victims of 1080 poisoning, or any other poison.
What can you do?
- Sign up to the campaign against 1080
- Write to the Minister for Environment (and animal welfare) and ask why animals who are currently poisoned to death are excluded from welfare legislation. Address is OfficeoftheDeputyPremier@sa.gov.au