The RCMP, along with local veterinarians, are investigating how four dogs died after walking in the Cranbook Community Forest.
Earlier this week, the Steeples Veterinary Clinic and the Cranbrook Veterinary Hospital posted to social media, telling people to avoid walking their dogs in the area after many of the pets had become suddenly, and in some cases fatally, ill.
Steeples hospital manager Andrew Skaien confirmed they have opened up a case with the RCMP and that they are talking to toxicologists around North America to try to determine what to do next.
“It affects us,” said Skaien. “We see that sort of thing and we too, like everybody else, wonders if it is malicious. We still don’t know if it’s accidental or malicious, right? So in our mind right now we’re thinking, ‘What’s going on?’”
Cranbrook RCMP declined to comment, only saying they are talking with the vets, the Regional District of East Kootenay and the Community Forest Association.
Skaien said there are parallels between these dogs’ deaths and what happened October 2016, when two dogs died after ingesting a white, fatty substance in the Community Forest.
“You can’t help but draw that conclusion, but what happened last year went to the RCMP as well, and a lot of stuff came back inconclusive,” Skaien said. “So I can’t sit here and say for sure, but I mean, same area, same symptoms that sort of thing.”
Haley Walker-Opperman, whose Scotch Collie lab died last year from ingesting that white substance, commented on Steeples’ Facebook post that a Crime Stoppers reward system for information on the matter, will be carried forward in light of recent events.
READ MORE: Dog deaths blamed on chemical poison (2016)
Steve Mercandelli’s chocolate lab, Yaya, is one of the four dogs that have recently died.
“The vet there was fantastic. She contacted me right away [and] told me that there has been related deaths and now they’re going to be further research,” Mercandelli said. “They were taking some results lab test from my dog and sent it away to a toxicology.”
He said he’d been biking with Yaya at the time, and he happens to map his routes on his phone. He said that information, along with logged routes from another person whose dog died after being in the forest, has been sent to RCMP.
Skaien reiterated the importance of remaining cautious when in the Community Forest.
“We haven’t had any cases since, which is awesome,” he said. “But that area right now, we’re looking at the south end of Community Forest, seems to be where they are located.
“If there’s anything suspicious out there like chunks of meat, elk or deer carcasses, or any sort of suspicious substance, definitely leave it alone. Mark it, call us or the RCMP, and make sure that information gets in the right hands.”