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Reward offered in Sandpoint dog poisonings

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who used strychnine to kill two Sandpoint dogs.

“To use any poison to kill an animal, especially one as lethal as strychnine, is incredibly cruel,” said Lisa Kauffman, the Humane Society’s Idaho director, in a news release. “These were two beloved family dogs that went through hours of intense pain and fear before dying horrible deaths. Their owners are devastated. These dogs were like children to them, and we need to prosecute those responsible.”

Frank and Carrie Corallino returned home from work on Jan. 30 to find Scooby, their Labrador retriever/Rhodesian ridgeback mix, having uncontrollable seizures and fighting for breath, the release said. They rushed Scooby to the vet, but he died on the way.

Upon returning home, the owners found Chloe, their miniature Pomeranian, dead under their bed.

Necropsies and analysis revealed chunks of raw meat and high concentrations of strychnine, in pellet form, in the dogs’ stomachs, the release said.

Strychnine causes severe, painful muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, uncontrollable arching of the neck and back, and rigidity in the arms and legs, possibly leading to death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The poison is used primarily to kill rats, the CDC Web site said. Symptoms usually appear within 15 minutes to an hour.

Kauffman said the Corallinos’ dogs stayed mostly inside the house but were let into a fenced yard under supervision to relieve themselves. Strychnine works so quickly that Kauffman assumes someone placed the poisoned meat in the yard the night before or early that morning, she said.

She said the neighborhood is “up in arms about it” and considering increasing the reward. “This is budding-serial killer type of stuff,” Kauffman said. “You don’t do stuff like that.”

Sandpoint Police Chief R. Mark Lockwood said animal cruelty can be a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony conviction can bring up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine; a misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $100 fine.

“It’s a continuing investigation right now and we’re looking at everything that’s on the table,” Lockwood said of the dog-poisoning. “These are not a common occurrence. It’s a vicious act. It’s certainly going to cause some anxiety” among members of the public.