It began about a week ago when two cats became ill and died on the porch of a duplex unit where Brenda McLarty lives with her son Brent McLarty. Frustrated by the deaths, he posted a yard-sign that reads “warning animal prisoners in neighborhood” and Brenda McLarty took to their street –- Christine Drive, near Christine Avenue -- with a picket sign to warn neighbors on Tuesday.
“I don’t want to accuse anybody,” Brent McLarty said. “I just want people in the neighborhood to beware because someone maybe poisoning their animals.”
Shortly after the two cats died on her porch, two more cats, Jazz and Zoe, died at a duplex unit rented by Brittany Henagar and Calvin Welch. A day or so later, Brenda McLarty said she noticed an dog “wobbling” down the road “about to die” and shortly after that another neighborhood pet, a chihuahua, became ill, but survived after a visit to the veterinarian’s office.
Brenda and Brent McLarty, along with their neighbors Henagar and Welch, said each of the animals exhibited the same symptoms. It began with bouts of green vomiting and or foaming at the mouth, and included seizures or con-vulsions. They suspect that someone has been feeding the animals food laced with rat poison.
“They were just, like, lifeless,” Henagar said of her cats prior to their death. “They could move their eyes, but they couldn’t move their bodies at all.”
Those symptoms are consistent with what happens to animals that ingest antifreeze or rat poison, area veterinarians say. Jackson Walker, an associate veterinarian at Animal Medical Center in Anniston, said before coming to Annis-ton he treated several animals that were suffering from rat poisoning.
“It’s a bad thing and the worst thing is the animal suffers. It’s a slow death,” Walker said. “They essentially bleed out from the inside out.”
Walker said since coming to Anniston he hasn’t treated any animals that were believed to have been intentionally poisoned, but said it happens from time to time.
Judy Beam, office manager at the Anniston Veterinary Hospital, echoed his statements, saying her office has not treated poisoned animals but workers there know that it occurs.
“We’ve had some suspicious cases, but we’ve ruled it out,” Beam said. “There’re some crazy people out there, and if the dog's barking they’re likely to give them anything.”
Determining whether, or not an animal has been intentionally poisoned is the most difficult part of the process, according to Sgt. Scott Grissom, who oversees special operations at the Anniston Police Department. The animal must be sent off for an autopsy in Auburn, and that’s costly.
Brenda McLarty said officers told her the city couldn’t afford the expense; she couldn’t either, so her animals were never tested. Neither of Henagar’s cats were tested.
But both Brenda McLarty and Henegar said they filed police reports following the deaths, though police have just one of the two on record, according to Grissom. Brenda McLarty said an officer arrived at her home, took a report and told her she could pick up a copy the following morning. When she arrived the next day officials at the police department said the report wasn’t recorded because nothing could be done.
“We can’t do anything about it,” Brenda McLarty said. “We can’t prove it.”
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.