Investigation of dogs on Sunshine Coast increases as deaths leave owners ill

For Samantha Barrass and her family this week, the loss of their golden lab, Pepper, was made even harder by the knowledge that it may have been the result of a deliberate, malicious act.

“It’s incredible… it just makes you sick… there are no words,” Ms Barrass said.

“I don’t know how you could harm or even kill an innocent, defenseless animal and a dog… it’s such a joy.”

Pepper was one of five dogs who died after visiting Buddina Beach – a popular off-leash area on the Sunshine Coast.

Pepper showed symptoms of poisoning several hours after her walk.

Ms Barass said her dog died at the veterinary hospital on Tuesday

Breaking the news to her five-year-old daughter was one of the hardest things she had to do.

“She just wants Pepper to be home and can’t understand what happened,” Ms Barass said.

“She was the happiest dog… foolishly happy… she was the smartest of us all.”

Pepper’s family is devastated after she succumbed to symptoms of poisoning on Tuesday.(Delivered: Samantha Barrass)

Dog bowls removed

Sunshine Coast Police and the RSPCA are investigating, with at least seven dogs involved, including the five that died.

An image of a beach access sign in front of some trees and the beach
The Sunshine Coast Council has removed a dog drinking bowl from Beach Access 210.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jessica Ross)

Several of the owners told authorities their dogs had been drinking from water bowls in Buddina, near beach access 210.

Sunshine Coast Councilman Joe Natoli said portable drinking bowls have been removed, while fixed bowls have been sealed to prevent further contamination.

“We will step up our surveillance of the area,” Mr Natoli said.

“The council is actually asking people that when they have their dogs and they are in off-leash areas they need to be very vigilant to make sure they keep an eye on their dogs.”

Gray haired man looks at camera with field behind him.
Joe Natoli says water bowls have been removed or sealed.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Kylie Bartholomew)

Kawana Waters Police Officer Mark Cordwell encouraged affected pet owners to file an official complaint.

“We would like to attempt to determine the location and times that all of these dogs may have been,” Senior Sergeant Cordwell said.

In the case of intent, those responsible face up to seven years in prison.

“It’s certainly a serious matter,” Senior Sergeant Cordwell said.

“It is worrying enough for us to launch an investigation.”

Beagle looking at camera
Billy the Beagle is one of five dogs to die after a spate of alleged poisonings.(Includes: Doggie Adventure Playhouse)

Dog lover in shock

The news has rocked the Sunshine Coast community, especially the dog park regulars.

Many took to social media to say they would not visit the area until the source of the poisoning was found.

Gary from Buderim, who declined to give his full name, did not take his dog Fui to the park on Wednesday but spent the morning warning other hikers.

“I figured I’d come over here and sit down for half an hour and if anyone came by with a dog I’d tell them just in case they didn’t hear the news,” Gary said.

“So that they can be careful and maybe keep their dog on a leash and prevent him from eating anything if something is around.”

A man sits in the front seat of a car and a dog sits in the back
Gary from Buderim didn’t want to walk his dog Fui after hearing about suspected poisoning.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Kylie Bartholomew)

Meanwhile, Ms Barrass said she was determined to help investigate dog deaths to ensure justice was done for the lost animals.

“Pepper was only four … it would be different if she left because of age or if she developed a medical condition,” she said.

“For someone…an individual or a group of people…to be part of death…that’s just malice.”

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