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Circulating Message Claims a Dog Died after Playing With a Poisoned Filled Nerf Football

Circulating Facebook message claims that a dog playing at a community dog park died minutes after picking up a poison-filled Nerf football he found.

Dog park

© Rossella Apostoli

Brief Analysis
The message remains unsubstantiated. The warning does not name the park, the city, or even the country where the alleged poisoning occurred. Nor are the dog’s owners identified. So far, I have not found any credible news reports about the incident described.  However, dog owners should certainly remain vigilant. Dog baiting does occur, including a recent incident in San Francisco in which two dogs became ill after eating poisoned meatballs left on the street.

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Last night my sister’s dog, Jake, was at the community dog park. He was playing and running and having a blast. He picked up a Nerf football that was just laying around. He immediately dropped it and shook his head. He got a drink and played a bit longer. Then all of a sudden he wanted to go home. When he got home a few moments later, he laid down and in minutes he was dead. This was a wonderful, healthy 4-yr old Golden Retriever mx. Apparently someone didn’t like the dog park and had left the ball full of poison. So NEVER, NEVER, NEVER LET YOUR DOG PICK UP ANYTHING THAT HE DIDN’T BRING WITH HIM! Any toys abandoned should immediately be put in the trash! This was a horrible loss and my sister is devastated! I doubt they will ever know who did this, but don’t be the next victim. Spread the word–SAVE A LIFE!

Nerf Ball Jake

Detailed Analysis
This message, which is currently circulating via Facebook and other social media sites, describes a case in which a dog died after playing with a poisoned-laced Nerf football he found discarded at a community dog park. According to the warning, four-year-old Golden Retriever, Jake, picked up the ball, but immediately dropped it. The message claims that Jake died a few minutes later after returning home. It advises people to never let their dogs pick up anything they didn’t bring with them and asks that people spread the word to warn other dog owners.

However, the claims in the message are so far unsubstantiated. The message does not indicate what park, what city, or even what country the alleged poisoning occurred in. Nor does it identify Jake’s owners. It is thus difficult to track down any information about the incident described.  So far, I have found no credible news reports about such a case.

The message does not indicate if the cause of death was officially identified as poisoning by animal health authorities. Nor does it state what kind of poison was used or if police are investigating the incident.

The message claims that the dog simply picked up the ball and then immediately dropped it, but still died within minutes. Thus, if Jake really did die of poisoning, the substance must have been extremely toxic.  It is also not clear why a dog baiter would go to the trouble of hiding the poison inside a toy, when a laced piece of meat or bone would likely be more effective. While many dogs may not be able to resist an unexpected snack they find in a park, many would not bother with a discarded toy.

The story cannot be confirmed as true without at least some basic collaborating evidence. Jake, if he is a real dog, may have died of some sudden illness unrelated to the discarded football. Or he may have ingested poison elsewhere.

And, even if the warning describes a real incident, its lack of details and location data rob it of much of its potential value. If such discarded toy poisonings were a widespread issue, then it certainly would have been widely reported by many different news and animal welfare outlets. There are no such reports. Therefore, the problem, if real, would likely be isolated to one particular region.  But, alas, the warning does not say what region. Thus, the message is likely to rather fruitlessly circulate all over the world. And, given that the message does not provide a date for the alleged incident either, it may continue circulating for months or even years to come.

That said, dog owners
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