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Harnett County Dog Poisonings Prompt Investigation

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DUNN, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Agriculture is investigating several suspicious dog deaths in Harnett County.

Two Labrador retrievers belonging to a Dunn family died within two months of each other.

In mid-April, 6-year-old Baxter died and 2-year-old Bailey became sick. Bailey was treated and released from a Cary animal hospital. Several weeks later, he became sick again.

"He was walking around in a circle with his nose straight down.I immediately knew he was poisoned by his actions," said owner Billie Jean Whittenton.

Whittenton brought Bailey back to the animal hospital, but he died.

Necropsies performed on the dogs show they had been poisoned by terbufos, a restricted use pesticide.

Known by the brand name Counter, the pesticide is used in corn fields and its use requires a license.

Because the chemical is used in the spring, Dr. Marilyn Brewer, the veterinarian that treated the dogs, believes the poisoning was deliberate.

Molly, a puppy belonging to Whittenton's father that played with Baxter, was also poisoned. She was treated and is now doing fine.

Now, more poisoning cases have surfaced in Meadow and a state pesticide inspector is on the case.

According to the Department of Agriculture, if a case of deliberate poisoning is identified, those responsible would be charged with misdemeanor pesticide law violations, which can carry criminal fines of $1,000 and a 60-day jail sentence.

The Harnett County Sheriff's Office investigated the first two poisonings, but said it did not have enough evidence to charge anyone. However, the Sheriff's Office said evidence found by the state could be used to prosecute suspects for felony animal cruelty.

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