Dogs poisoned with rodenticide in St. Anthony

Barbara Subak returned home from an outing on Saturday, Feb 16 to find her two loving canine companions, Billy and Spirit in serious trouble.  Both dogs had severe diarrhea and she knew instantly something was wrong when she saw Billy vomiting large amounts of blood.

The 8-year-old, mixed-breed rescue dog from Oklahoma died a short time later in her owner’s home.

Her other dog Spirit exhibited similar signs the following day, though not as severe.

“ I just panicked the next day when my other dog [Spirit] began vomiting,” Subak said.

She immediately brought Spirit to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center for emergency treatment.

Fortunately Spirit survived. Ten days later Billy’s autopsy results confirmed Subak’s suspicion that her dogs had ingested poison.

Rat poison was detected in her dog’s system and was ruled as the cause of death. She believes the only reason Spirit survived was because her other dog was the more aggressive eater and as a result Spirit ingested a smaller dose.

Rodenticides are anticoagulants designed to prevent clotting of blood in small animals like rats, mice and squirrels, but will kill almost any animal if the amount ingested is large enough. When eaten, anticoagulants prevent the creation of Vitamin K, essential to normal blood clotting, which results in uncontrolled internal bleeding. Lethal doses of these poisons are often tasteless and odorless and are sometimes even pre-packaged in flavored bars, which attract vermin, and unfortunately sometimes dogs. The poison can take four or five days before its effects kill an animal.

Subak said she does not keep any poisons in her home and said her dogs do not leave a fenced in area in her backyard. She suspected foul play and called the St. Anthony Police Department.

Officer Jack Christman was dispatched to her home on the 3500 block of Stinson Boulevard. His police report states that there were no visible footprints leading to the enclosure where her dogs were allowed to roam. There is a paved walkway on the east side of the garage that is clear of snow, which could have been used to approach the enclosed patio, according to the report.

Subak wonders if potential burglars, who wanted to kill the dogs so they could gain entry into her home without the dogs barking and alerting neighbors, may have poisoned her dogs.

“That scenario seems unlikely,” Christman said. “There are so many other homes to break into where someone would not have to go through that amount of effort.”

He said it is unclear how the dogs came into contact with the poison, but believes it is more likely that a disgruntled neighbor upset with the dogs barking is responsible for the crime than a burglar.

Christman has been a St. Anthony police officer for 21 years and said he can only recall one incident in the city were a dog was intentionally poisoned.

Subak said she has only received one complaint from a neighbor about the dogs barking.

That neighbor is a dog owner himself and was out of town at the time of the incident, according to the police report.

Subak is still mourning the loss of Billy, but is thankful to still have Spirit.

“The dog is fine. I’m the nervous Nelly,” she said.

Since the incident she gets up several times in the middle of the night to check on her home and dog to make sure everything is secure.

She said she is not planning on getting another dog as a companion for Spirit.

“I don’t want to outlive my dog and create a problem for my family,” 87-year-old Subak said. “This has been so hard and I just can’t go through this again.”

The St. Anthony Police Department is still investigating this case, but so far have no suspects.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at or 651-748-7824.

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