Stockwell dog owners believe baiting responsible for dog deaths

A Barossa couple are gutted and angered, having discovered their third “fur-baby” has died at the hands of a “deliberate” baiting attack.

Stockwell’s Cheryl and Michael Boehm were woken at 2am on Thursday morning to the “awful sounds” of their much loved chocolate Labrador Bella in the midst of fitting and foaming at the mouth due to a seizure. 

Within four hours, Bella had died in Mrs Boehm’s arms while she was on the phone to a vet.

“The night before she was running around like crazy and we just thought she was being a dog,” Mrs Boehm said.

Yet their real heartache comes from the family losing not one, but three of their much loved dogs since moving into their large house block three years ago. They believe two were baited within the first year.

“We just can’t believe it, who would do such a thing?” Mrs Boehm said on Thursday.

“We have no rivals, the dogs are kept inside at night so they don’t bark at night.”

The latest death has hit Mr Boehm hard.

Through tears, he asked the community to be vigilant and asked for justice.

It was three years ago when they lost their first dog, Border Collie/Kelpie-cross Jess, who was 12 months old.

Later that same year, a second attack saw veterinary care provided to dog Socks, a purebred Border Collie aged six months. Her stomach was pumped and she was kept on a drip for several hours.

“When she was taken off the drip, she had another seizure and died,” Mrs Boehm said.

The couple strongly believe their dogs have been victims of 1080 bait – a pesticide bait used by landholders to reduce fox and rabbit numbers.

“We noticed that Bella’s signs were exactly the same as what happened to Jess,” Mrs Boehm said.

The vet could not confirm or deny if their second dog died as a result of the bait.

Following the death of Socks, Mrs Boehm said she found a piece of string hanging over their vacant and high-fenced block next to their home.

“We believe the bait was placed on there because we had never seen it before,” she said.

As a precaution, the couple added locks to all their gates, making their easy country lifestyle change feel like “Fort Knox”.

The property’s perimeter remains secure to protect Bella’s brother Milo, who is now under the Boehm’s constant watch.  

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“We are also worried because I have two grandchildren,” she said.

Mrs Boehm also contacted the council three years ago in search of help, asking permission for the installation of CCTV cameras on their property, but because they live opposite a church, they were denied.

“We were told we could not put up a camera because of privacy laws and because it’s a public place,” she said.

The Barossa Council, who expressed disappointment over the recent attack, explained how they do not have jurisdiction over the use of CCTV cameras.

“Previously we have advised landowners of privacy regulations. However, it is solely a matter for individuals to make that decision and in cases like this we refer people to police if we have sufficient knowledge of the complaint matter,” chief executive officer Martin McCarthy said.

Mrs Boehm has also involved police who told her there was “nothing they can do”.

According to Barossa police senior sergeant Sven Kahl, police only attend premises when there is a breach of the peace, meaning in general – a dog attack.

“We don’t directly get involved in the enforcement,” Sgt Kahl said.

Mr McCarthy said it is the Natural Resource and Development Board who authorise the use of 1080.

“Whilst we do our best to assist community first and foremost through information and education, Biosecurity SA investigates suspected cases of misuse of agricultural chemicals including 1080,” he said.

And it seems the couple may not be the only pet owners to suffer at the hands of cruel dog attacks.

Three weeks ago, their neighbour’s Kelpie died from a suspected snake bite. But on Thursday when Mrs Boehm shared the horrible details of Bella’s death, the neighbour recalled how her dog died a similar way.

The discovery led the neighbour to place a letter in Stockwell’s post office window, warning people of the recent attacks. 

Barossa Herald contacted RSPCA SA who said they were not aware of these attacks in the area.

“Cases of alleged baiting can be hard to prove, which is why it’s important to collect as much information possible,” RSPCA SA media and public relations officer Kate Holmes said. 

“Catching someone in the act and having evidence of this is what enables authorities to act.”

Ms Holmes said it was illegal to deliberately cause pain and suffering to an animal, with a maximum penalty of four years jail or a $50,000 fine.

“In a case earlier this year, a family set up a CCTV camera which caught the offender in the act of laying baits.

“The CCTV footage in this case is what enabled successful prosecution and the offender was jailed and received significant fines.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 131 444 or RSPCA’s 24-hour report line on 1300 4 777 22.