Search & Rescue dog dies after eating suspected poisoned bait

The Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) has announced the death of one of its trainee dogs after consuming what is believed to have been a poisoned bait.

SARDA posted the following statement on social media yesterday:

Tragic news in the last few days, as Bonnie, a SARDA Ireland Trainee Trailing Dog died after she ate poison that had been deliberately put out on the hill with the intention of targeting wildlife. She and her handler Jim O’Brien were training in the foothills of the Knockmealdowns when the incident occurred.

Bonnie was a beautiful and talented dog who no doubt would have become one of our first SARDA Ireland Trailing Dogs. A tragic loss for Jim, who has lost his beloved pet, and a huge loss to the SARDA Ireland Trailing Dog Team.

There have also been reports in the media, such as this from Tipp FM:

Investigations are underway following the poisoning of a Search and Rescue Dog in Tipperary.

Bonnie – a Labrador/Collie cross – was being trained by a member of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association of Ireland.

The incident happened last Sunday week in woods on the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains near Clogheen. Sadly Bonnie passed away a few days later.

There are just 6 qualified dogs in the country with 4 of them part of the South Eastern Mountain Rescue Association.

Gerry Tobin is a dog handler with SARDA – he says there have been other incidents of poisoning reported in the area.

There are certain individuals who for whatever reason are putting out poisoned baits and targeting wildlife – buzzards, peregrines, badgers you know any animals like this are potentially going to be at risk of poisoning.

And you’re also in a situation where you could have a family dog being exercised on a Sunday afternoon along the Blackwater Way and the following day that family dog could be dead.”


The type of poison hasn’t been disclosed in this case but only a few weeks ago we learned that the banned pesticide Carbofuran had been used for the mass poisoning of 23 buzzards in neighbouring County Cork (see here).

Placing poisoned baits to target birds of prey is not only illegal, but it’s also barbaric and indiscriminate. Only last month we heard of the suspected poisoning of two dogs in the notorious raptor-killing hell hole of Nidderdale, a so-called protected area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in North Yorkshire. One of those dogs subsequently died (see here).

If you see what you believe is a poisoned bait, DON’T TOUCH IT but call the police immediately.

19 thoughts on “Search & Rescue dog dies after eating suspected poisoned bait”

  1. Never wanting to use foul language, there are no polite words that are good enough to describe how I feel about the people who place poisoned baits.

  2. Whoever killed that search dog, potentially has killed a human being, as search and rescue dogs’ primary purpose is, finding people who are lost/injured in wild places and in terrible weather. The dog is now never going to be available for search and rescue.

    1. They can vary, Ray.

      Some will be the carcass of a dead animal, say a rabbit, hare, fox or squirrel, staked out on the ground with its belly slit open and granules of poison sprinkled on top. Others use cubes of chopped up meat placed on top of fence posts. Others use sausages. Others place pheasant carcasses over tree branches. Others use a live tethered pigeon with poison smeared its body. The options are endless.

      Basically, if something looks ‘odd’ to you, suspect the worse, DON’T TOUCH IT (because many of these poisons are capable of killing a human – that’s why they’ve been banned) and call the police.

  3. Surely this is a matter for the Garda Siochana?
    The Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act, 1965, and the Protection of Animals Act ,1911 place strict regulations on the use of poison for the killing of vermin.
    As such there are potentially some serious offences being committed here regardless of the type of poison being used or the target species of any poisoned bait.
    Sadly, it looks as though Eire is also struggling with a criminal element who target wildlife and raptors?
    Hopefully there will be public outrage, and a proper investigation will take place to bring those responsible to justice?

    This post has set me thinking about a hare carcass I found last year on top of a gate post. It also makes me wonder what a keeper on the same moor was up to when I saw him driving onto moorland with a dead pheasant on his quad bike- I did report that to the police with my suspicions.

    As advised -report anything suspicious to the police, photograph it, and use What3Words to locate precisely where you saw it.

    Hopefully this will help eradicate the vermin from our countryside!!!

  4. Let this poor dog not be a martyr but a saviour for the cause. My deepest sympathies go out to all it’s close family

  5. When I look at that dog’s face I see my own lovely dog. That poisoning was the work of an evil psychopath. If there is any justice in the world that person will ingest some of the same poison.

    1. I don’t think these people are evil psychopaths, they just have a very different view of the world and the law. Yes its terrible a dog died but it is no more terrible than when a raptor, fox or badger dies the same way In Ireland until recently it was OK to use poison baits and some folk still have that mindset, however wrong it may be. This doesn’t detract from my anger at all poisonings we just need to understand and have very serious but at the same time appropriate penalties. I think there are a couple of cases in the UK where keepers have poisoned themselves by accident, not that I have any sympathy for them.

      1. “they just have a very different view of the world and the law”

        That is quite a remarkable explanation of the mindset of someone who is an animal poisoner. Some would say it is a grotesque interpretation of the activities of a poisoner and a criminal.

        All criminals have a “different view”, but that does not remotely approach being an acceptable reason for breaking the law and it does not begin to describe the perverted psychology of a criminal poisoner.

        Evil is an appropriate depiction.

      2. Paul,
        You may have started an interesting debate here?
        Psychopathy can be diagnosed in a clinical setting as a person with a personality disorder.
        Psychopathy is usually marked by persistent antisocial behaviour traits with impaired empathy, remorse, egotistical behaviour and a lack of regard for normal social behaviour.
        At what point does an individuals behaviour deviate so much from the normal standards associated with society that it changes from a different “world perspective” to that of psychopathic behaviour?
        As the normal standards within society change then so does the point at which behaviour is deemed psychopathic.
        Historically, the use of the poisons to kill wild animals was accepted, but as our understanding of animals as sentient beings has developed, then this method of killing, which inflicts so much suffering is much less tolerated.
        Gas was a common form of warfare in the trenches of WW1, but today it is banned by the Geneva Protocol, and would be deemed a war crime.
        In earlier times bear baiting and dog fighting were popular pastimes – today they are illegal and we would view the people who participate in such activities as criminals with evil and cruel tendencies.
        If the law is seen as a barometer of a societies values and standards, the it can be interesting to review a judges summing up at the end of a criminal trial, and how he address the convicted person. The language used is frequently a reflection of how far below what the law will tolerate, that individuals behaviour has deviated.
        The law regarding the use of poisons to kill vermin is evolving, and certain poisons previously used are now banned.
        So does this make people who indiscriminately use poisons to target sentient wild creatures as evil psychopaths? Potentially? But it will be a reflection of the normal standards of society at that point of time.

        What relevant does psychopathy have to raptor persecution?

        It is very relevant.

        Many of those who engage in shooting game birds or wild animals view themselves as displaying a natural human tendency to hunt.
        I once saw an individual claiming that by going out to kill wild creatures he was displaying the qualities of the “alpha male”.
        I would argue that this was completely disillusion and far removed from the truth.
        What he was actually displaying were the actions of a coward and a bully, as his weaponry put him at such a great advantage over his quarry that there could be no risk to his personal safety.
        All recent environmental and wildlife studies have all indicated a huge decline in wildlife and habitat.
        So much wildlife is facing the realistic prospect of extinction, that there is perhaps a greater realisation, that as humans we are responsible for protecting what is left of the wild places and the creatures which live in it.

        In light of this growing responsibility for nature, there will come a point in time, when society will view those that go out into the countryside with the intention of killing wild birds for fun, birds which are neither in conflict with that persons existence, and which would never ordinarily come into contact with humans, as the actions of a cruel psychopath.
        Perhaps what the shooting industry should fear most is being labelled as “evil psychopaths” by the rest of society?
        As this will be the time when parliament will be forced to pass legislation to make grouse shooting and all its associated activities illegal, with severe penalties for those that engage in such psychopathic behaviour?

  6. I made my comment for one of a few reasons, as at one time I was in a mountain rescue team and with my dog, was also a member of SARDA (Scotland), so my comments were very valid.

    1. And I agree with you Harry, but I think it far too easy to label people who commit these wicked crimes as evil psychopaths particularly those in areas where until recently putting poison out for Foxes was legal. John does the fact that in my youth I used to regularly shoot for the pot and sell poached Pheasants to butchers who didn’t ask questions to pay for my cartridges or that I still shoot Grey Squirrels and Pheasants on our small holding as pests make me a psychopath, I don’t think so? I don’t think people who shoot for what we would call fun are psychologically disturbed in the main either they just have a very different world view. Its far too easy to claim they are all psychologically disturbed.

    2. Like Harry I too was on a fell rescue team in the distant past and when working in Scotland I helped in a small way training with search dogs in the early days. I developed a great love of these animals and the fact that one died so some tweedies can get their kicks really gets under my skin and I detest the whole set up even more.

  7. I don’t think for a moment that the person/s who planted the poisoned bait are mentally ill and really are more misguided and come from a mindset, which sees us, as the opposition to something they enjoy, or want to perpetuate. They think we don’t understand the ‘countryside’ and only they do. Once they start thinking that way, there really is only one way to deal with them and that is with even stiffer legislation i.e Licensing of their activities and stiff penalties for non compliance.
    Poisoning should be a straightforward jailing offence with no ifs, or buts and if ever there was a time for us to become ‘unreasonable’, it is over indiscriminate poisoning, as it clearly has a non-specific target and is TOTALLY irresponsible.

    1. “Poisoning should be a straightforward jailing offence with no ifs, or buts etc……….”

      Absolutely correct and there is no need to dissect the motives and mentality of these criminals. We have had decades of doing that then handling them with kid gloves and it has resulted in more of them polluting our country.

  8. I would like to pass on my condolences to Jim who has lost a loved companion and an intelligent ally in saving lives. A big loss for him and a loss for all those who Bonnie may have helped in the future.She looks a lovely dog. Shame on those who recklessly put out poison to kill any animal that just don’t fit into their world view.

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