LIHUE — A commonly used herbicide was reportedly used to poison several animals in a small subdivision of Kalaheo, on Kauai’s South Shore, according to officials.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before that was of this magnitude,” said Mana Brown, field services supervisor at the Kauai Humane Society.
Janelle Saneishi, public information officer of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, confirmed the deaths of five animals — four dogs and one cat — belonging to four separate owners. One owner had two dogs killed, she wrote in an email.
“According to the Kauai veterinarian, paraquat was used,” Saneishi wrote.
Paraquat is a highly toxic restricted use pesticide, which means it can only be purchased and used by licensed applicators, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most likely route of exposure to paraquat that would lead to poisoning is ingestion, although poisoning is also possible following skin exposure, accord to the CDC. Ingesting paraquat may lead to symptoms such as heart, kidney and liver failure within several days to several weeks, and death can occur after several weeks, according to the website.
Saneishi said the poisonings occurred Jan. 25, with the last pet dying Jan. 31. The incident occurred at the end of Puuwai Road, in the vicinity of Puulima Road, she added.
Brown said the area is relatively small, and that all the animals killed came from within 10 houses of each other.
“I don’t know if somebody is throwing it into the yard,” he said of the chemical, “or if (the animals) are going down the road and getting into something.”
Although he can’t be sure, Brown said it is more likely that the animals ingested the substance from somewhere else in the area.
An HDOA pesticide inspector conducted an investigation with individuals that live nearby and handed out notification flyers in neighboring communities, according to Saneishi.
“It has come to our attention that there may have been a suspected pesticide-related animal poisoning in your neighborhood,” the flyers read. “If you own a pet, please confine it to your property. Most of these unfortunate poisoning happen to animals that are allowed to roam freely. Also, please be on the alert for suspicious people or vehicles in your neighborhood.”
Under the Hawaii Pesticide Law, any person found guilty of the deliberate misuse of a pesticide may be fined up to $25,000, imprisoned for not more than a year, or both.
“The pesticides complaint investigation is ongoing and the police will do their own investigation,” Saneishi wrote.
County spokeswoman Sarah Blane confirmed that the Kauai Police Department was working with KHS to investigate the incidents.