By Lisa Kava
On the morning of Tuesday, April 19th, Upper West Sider Emilia Brunello entered Riverside Park at 83rd Street to walk her dog Waffles, a one-year-old rescue coon hound mix. An hour later she found herself at the vet in an emergency situation; Waffles had picked up and eaten a large piece of rat poison that had been left exposed in the open in the mulch directly across the path from the River Run Playground.
Rat poison bricks are generally bright green and can resemble a block of Lego or a large piece of candy.
If a dog ingests rat poison, immediate veterinary attention is crucial. “There are two main types of rat poison: those that are potent blood thinners, and those that affect the neurologic system,” explained Dr. Seth Bishop, one of the vets at Brilliant Vets on Amsterdam and 91st Street, where Waffles was treated. “Your veterinarian may induce vomiting and or administer a substance called activated charcoal to help prevent absorption of the poison.”
Rat poison is also toxic to children. “Rat poisons often contain anticoagulants or neurotoxins which children should not be exposed to, either by ingestion or physical contact. If you suspect your child has been exposed, call poison control immediately (212-POISONS),” Dr. Michael Yaker, a pediatrician, and a founding partner of Westside Pediatrics, on Columbus Avenue and 90th Street, told West Side Rag.
“Waffles picked up what I now know was a full brick of rat poison and, thinking it was a toy, started running with it,” Brunello told the Rag in a phone call. “My gut was that whatever Waffles picked up wasn’t good.” A fellow dog owner passing by told Brunello that she had heard about exposed rat poison in the area. “Thanks to her tip, I was able to quickly google image search what bricks of rat poison look like and got him to the vet within thirty minutes so they could induce vomiting.” Waffles remained at the vet for the day and was treated with charcoal and IV fluids to keep him hydrated.
Earlier this year, in February, exposed rat poison was found in tree beds on both 83rd Street and 85th Street near Riverside Park, and along the wall inside of the park. The Parks Dept had then told West Side Rag that they did not place the poison there and did not know who was responsible. The rat poison found today is the same in appearance as the poison found in February.
Lincoln Neto, Manager of Basics Plus Hardware on Broadway at 84th Street, identified the poison found in February as a home product sold in stores and online. He said the poison looked like one called D-CON, which he stocks in his store. Rat poison is meant to be placed in secure bait stations, Neto explained, and should never be left out in the open.
This reporter went to check out the area where Waffles ate the poison, only to find and dispose of an additional brick of poison in the same spot close to the path across from the playground. Dog walker Joshua Montez, who was walking by with two dogs on leash at the time, said he would not have known the green brick was rat poison. “I had no idea. I would have thought it was a piece of plastic or a sugar block.”
Waffles is resting comfortably at home after a long day. He will be on Vitamin K for one month, which is considered an antidote to rat poison due to its ability to clot blood. “Vitamin K1 is an important cofactor in activating coagulation factors, which is affected by these rat poisons. It can take up to 30 days for the anticoagulant rodenticide to clear the system so treatments and rechecks typically last through this time period,” Dr. Bishop explained.
Emilia Brunello was contacted by a Parks Department representative on Tuesday evening, who assured her that crews were searching the area for additional bricks.
“Council Member Brewer is concerned about this report of rat poison being placed in the open, where it is accessible to children and dogs. If residents are concerned about rats, we urge them to call 311 so the proper authorities can address it,” a spokesperson said. He added that CM Brewer’s office has alerted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) police about the exposed poison. “When rat baits are placed out by individuals not licensed to apply pesticides, we recommend reporting to the NYS DEC police at 718-482-4885 or 1-844-332-3267.”