Three dogs died and another was left in a critical state after being poisoned at a running event in southern France.
The dogs were taken ill after ingesting meatballs at the French Canicross Championships in Vauvert (Gard) on Sunday (March 12), the department’s gendarmerie said.
Three died, and a fourth – a Husky dog called Togo – was left in a serious state and transported to a specialist vet hospital in Montpellier (Hérault).
The dogs died within 15 minutes of each other, after eating the meatballs. The husky became ill after sniffing the vomit of the other dogs. The event was cancelled as the full scale of the incident emerged.
The team of vets at the event was unable to save the dogs.
The dog sporting group la Fédération des Sports et Loisirs Canins (FSLC) condemned the attack as “an abject criminal act” that had left the team “traumatised” and its vets “powerless faced with human cruelty”.
The gendarmerie and the FSLC have now confirmed that Togo is now out of danger and will survive.
Federation president Yvon Lasbleiz called the incident “a particularly odious act”. He added: “Oslo, Palma, and Opale, your owners have lost an unconditional love, a companion who offered comfort, security and shared a common passion.
“You had become an integral part of their family. We know how much they will miss you, the love they had for you; we understand their pain so well. May the good memories give some comfort and peace to those who shared your life.”
It is not yet known what substance or substances were inside the meatballs. Vice-president Émilie Nelson said that a “dozen meatballs were found in the car park…there were black grains inside, but we don’t know yet what they were”. An analysis is underway.
Ms Nelson said the day was “nightmarish”. She said: “We cannot understand how someone could be so cruel to animals. Attacking our dogs is extreme violence. It could have been children,” she added. “If they had touched or eaten these balls, the result could have been the same.”
The Nimes prosecutor, Cécile Gensac, has opened an inquiry into the incident, suspecting the offence of “serious abuse or cruelty to a domestic, tame or captive animal”. This crime carries the risk of two years imprisonment and a fine of €30,000.
What is canicross?
Canicross is a sport, in which runners run with their dogs.
All breeds are allowed, except category 1 dogs. It is usually advised that dogs be at least 12 months old before they compete, to avoid the risk of injury. They must also train beforehand to ensure fitness.
Dogs must also wear suitable equipment designed for the purpose, such as harnesses and extendable leads attached around the runner’s waist.
The sport is growing in popularity, and there are increased numbers of clubs offering the practice in France. It is a way of getting out in the countryside and exercising both yourself and your dog. It is also increasingly a competitive sport.
The French final was the qualifier for the world championships, which are scheduled to take place in Germany in October.
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