When Frank and Carrie Corallino, of Sandpoint, returned home from work on Jan. 30, they instantly knew something was wrong with Scooby, their 2-year-old Labrador retriever-Rhodesian ridgeback mix.
He greeted them at the door gasping and suffering seizures. They tried to rush him to the vet, but he died in Carrie Corallino’s lap on the way. Returning home, they found their 6-year-old miniature Pomeranian, Chloe, dead under their bed.
Now 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 the 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.”
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. Symptoms usually appear within an hour.
“I’ve lost animals to sickness and old age, but just the thought somebody could do this to these precious animals just kills me,” said Carrie Corallino. “They were good dogs. Nobody ever complained about them.”
The dogs mostly stayed inside but were let out into a large fenced yard to relieve themselves. A friend staying with the Corallinos let the dogs out around 2:30 p.m. the day they died. Kauffman assumes someone placed the poisoned meat in the yard the night before or 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.
“These are not a common occurrence,” Lockwood said. “It’s a vicious act. It’s certainly going to cause some anxiety” among the public.