FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A Fayetteville woman hired the county to put rat poison in her yard on May 25. Now, two of her dogs are dead, and a third became seriously ill.
The county failed to properly warn her of the poison's danger to her pets, and someone needs to be accountable, Lisa Rey said Monday.
Leda was a lost, hurt pup nine years ago, wandering the side of a road with another pup, one so ragged her rescuer named her "Ugly."
Rey said Monday that she “got in my car, took her to the vet because she was in terrible condition." Leda, she said, has "stayed with me ever since."
And there was Jack, a hound she had adopted from a shelter.
The three had the run of her back yard, but so did rats.
Rey paid $15 for the Cumberland County Health Department to bait her yard with rat poison.
"He laid a bait right there, under the faucet,” she said. The worker tossed pellet bags in places she thought her dogs could reach, she added.
"And he said, 'Well, they may dig some up, and they may toss the bags around, but they'll have to eat their weight in it in order to make them sick.’ I trusted that. And I believed him," Rey said.
In the next few weeks, though, Ugly and Jack were dead. Leda has racked up more than $800 in veterinary bills.
Highland Animal Hospital confirmed that the dogs died of blood clots consistent with ingesting rat poison.
The Health Department has apologized to Rey for the loss of her dogs, but says its employee did nothing wrong. One official describes it as a matter of miscommunication.
"The rat has to eat its weight in the poison in order to die, not the dog eating its weight in order to die," said Tony Ferguson, who works in the department's Division of Vector Control.
“This has happened before, but it’s very rare that it happens because most of the time a dog will not – he doesn’t mess with the bait,” Ferguson said.
Every homeowner who pays for the service must sign a disclaimer that says the county will accept no responsibility for anyone who ingests the poison, Ferguson said. The worker followed procedure, he added.
“He followed the standard procedure and what he was supposed to be doing. He had the owner with him as he was putting the poison down and inside the hole," Ferguson said. He added that policy requires the worker to put poison in holes where rats are known to travel.
Lisa Rey is not satisfied, “Because he looked me in the eye several times and assured me they'd be OK."
As she did nine years ago, she's trying to nurse Leda back to health.
Cumberland County requires workers to have the homeowner with them as they're setting out bait. In response to this case, the department has mandated that every client receive a written explanation of the dangers of rat poison.