Animal Advocates

Pet Owners Blame Local Park in Death of at Least 10 Dogs

Pet owners in Pennsylvania’s Springfield Township are blaming a local park’s use of dangerous herbicides in the deaths of at least 10 beloved dogs.

Springfield Township residents packed a Tuesday night Board of Supervisors meeting to plead for the board to discontinue the use of herbicides in a local dog-friendly park.

Following the deaths of several dogs in the area from cancers, dog owners discovered the one thing all of their dogs had in common was that they frequented or lived in the vicinity of Peppermint Park, a local park under lease agreement by local hay farmer who sprays the park with herbicides to prevent weed growth. The park is under a dual-use policy that allows the land to be farmed for hay.

Dog owners are blaming the chemicals used in the deaths of their dogs and requesting that the township discontinue allowing the herbicides to be used in parks.

Although concerns about the chemicals used have been raised as early as 2016, hay farmer Anthony Renner, who leases the land from the township, and township administrators have repeatedly defended the use of the herbicide 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, saying it is harmless despite critics, including the township’s own Environmental Advisory Council, citing several studies showing its harmful effect on dogs. The Environmental Advisory Council says repeated use over the past two and a half years is incompatible with the public use of the park.

“We lost both of our dogs over the course of two months, both from soft tissue cancers,” one resident said. “We had to put our 13-year-old black lab, Max, to sleep because he was diagnosed with cancer,” another resident said.

Resident David Bretz lost two Swiss Mountain dogs to lymphoma within only a month. Christine Rice, who lives across from the park, lost her 9-year-old pitbull to lymphoma.

Even those who don’t visit the park but live in the vicinity are affected. “When he (Renner) sprays, we cannot get rid of the fumes. We have everything – aided by the winds – come across the street right into our property. We get it all,” said Jen Brader, who also lives across the street. “We lost our Labrador retriever, 13, to spleen cancer on Feb. 28.” Brader is now concerned for the health of her young puppy.

Brader’s neighbor, Sandy Rice lost two Labradors over a few month span due to lymphoma. So far, at least 10 area dogs have either died or been diagnosed with various cancers.

Following concerns, the township initiated a two week ban on public access to the parks following any spraying of herbicides. But area residents are now pushing to end both the use of herbicides and any farming on the land.

“There’s nothing the township can do to take away the exposure we’ve already undergone. Our dogs are like canaries in the coalmine,” Sandy Rice said. “Something was going on and they, unfortunately, bore the brunt of it. I just don’t want it to happen again to anybody else’s dog or a little kid or person who walks up there.”

Springfield Township officials said they plan to address the situation at a meeting in April.

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