Rat Poison Deadly for Bluff Pets

Kirt Ramirez

There was quite a controversy in Bluff Heights recently when a cat died and a dog was injured Thanksgiving Day after eating tuna laced with rat poison.

The incident was posted on the website Nextdoor and the post received lots of comments from the community, mostly in the form of outrage towards the woman who placed the poison on her property. The dog was treated and survived.

Rat poison reportedly causes a slow and painful death.

The Beachcomber visited the woman’s house in the 200 block of Orizaba. She and her husband were warm and welcoming. The woman did not have any objection to her name being used in the article. However, due to her advanced age of 94 and that several veiled threats were made on Nextdoor, the Beachcomber decided not to print her name.

The woman explained her side of the story and gave a tour of her backyard, where she grows an array of vegetables, fruits, fruit trees, herbs and passionfruit vines. The woman grows her own food to eat but also attracts rats, mice and squirrels in the process. As an example, she pointed to a dozen or so apples gnawed by a creature.

“The rats have cleaned us out,” she said. “The fruit rats come in. I can’t even make applesauce anymore.”

She used pest control bait traps in the past as well as mice and rat traps but the problem persists.

“I bought everything I can think of,” she said.

In addition, two cats belonging to a couple across the street would frequent the woman’s property and dig in the woman’s garden, despite the added security of fencing atop a fence to keep the cats out of the backyard, she said.

“The cats get right on top of it and poop everywhere in my garden,” she said.

The woman used animal repellant for the cats and cages to safely trap them and return them to the couple, with whom she was very good friends. But the cats kept coming back, she said.

“I’ve bought everything to keep the cats away but it doesn’t help,” she said, adding the cat that died was trapped by her three times. The other cat was trapped two times, she said.

To address the rats, she said she placed a half-teaspoon of tuna in two bottle caps along with rat poison. She said she raised rats as a girl to feed her pet snakes and used to feed the rats tuna.

The caps was placed in the open front yard near and “under a zucchini leaf,” an estimated few to seven feet from the public sidewalk.

“I never gave a cat a thought that it would find it under the leaf,” she said. “I would never poison a cat.”

The woman said she did not mean for any cats or dogs to find the tuna and eat it and said she felt bad that the tragic situation happened.

Asked if she would do it again, she adamantly said, “no.”

The woman said she has lived in her house since 1939. The woman has an interesting and hardworking background. The Press-Telegram has published articles on her before.

“I’ve lived here with no problem in all those years,” she said. “I’m not ever going to do anything for the rats again.”

She said the city will help her in addressing rats in the future.

“It was strictly accidental,” she said of the pet poisonings. “I just put fish down for the rats that annihilated my fruit trees.”

After the incident, someone tore down the woman’s plastic fence and dragged it to the sidewalk. The act damaged her 75-year-old lemon tree and green lemons scattered about.

The woman called the police and a vandalism report was made.

“I’m so afraid,” she said. “I’m scared to go out.”

The neighbor whose cat died from the poisoning said the woman talked to him before about his cat going on her property. He said he helped put a fence up to remedy the situation and considered the woman as family and invited her to family functions.

But he would not keep his two cats inside, which used a doggie door, he said.

“They’re cats,” he said. “We don’t live in an apartment. They’re cats.”

Another neighbor whose dog ate some of the poison and was treated by a veterinarian gave the woman the vet bill totaling $1,033.38.

He said in part through email, “Luckily he responds fairly well to the ‘drop it’ command but the tuna fish was very tempting and he managed to eat some of it despite my best efforts.”

“The placement this close to a common area is dangerous not only to cats but any animal or even small children walking through the neighborhood,” the neighbor said.

He said the woman was apologetic but has yet to pay any money.

He would not answer the question whether his dog was on a leash.

Long Beach Animal Care Services Manager Ted Stevens said through email that Animal Control is investigating the situation and ACS has not made a decision yet on whether to pursue action against the woman.

Meanwhile, Stevens recommends residents use professional, licensed pest control companies or legal traps instead of rodenticide to kill rats and mice.

“To answer your question to some extent I would say that while the use of certain types of rodenticides may be legal, they must be used in accordance with state law and precautions must be taken so as not to injure or kill non-target species such as (raccoons, opossums, skunks, birds, coyotes, etc.) as well as pets such as cats and dogs. Harming these types of animals could lead to prosecution by ACS or CA Department of Fish and Wildlife. Poison is not a legal method of taking a game or non-game mammal or bird according to CA DFW www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2007/475regs0907.pdf.”

David Zeligs wrote, “As an attorney and resident of Bluff Heights, I love dogs and cats but their owners have the responsibility to control their pets. I have walked by her house and seen the beautiful fruit trees and vegetables she lovingly tends and also shares with others. She can’t be responsible for every cat in the neighborhood roaming through her garden without her consent.”




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