Twenty one cases of poisoning were reported last month alone. The alarming statistics were revealed by Esther Honey Foundation manager Jo Taylor Kupu.
She says seven animals - five cats and two dogs, were poisoned by the weedkiller-Paraquat (sold in this country as Gramoxone) while 14 dogs were poisoned after eating fish caught in the lagoon.
Poisoning cases are some of the most difficult the foundation’s veterinarians and volunteer staff have to deal with, she says.
“We’ve got six patients at the moment with fish poisoning,
“We just want people to know that they can’t feed their animals with fish taken from the lagoon and they must also be mindful of the chemical fertilisers they use at home.”
Kupu said symptoms the poisoned animals presented included bloody diarrhoea, gasping for breath and salivating, and she advised the public to take good care of their animals.
“It’s heartbreaking for us when we see an animal go through a really horrible death or watching animals with fish poisoning go through a horrible pain.
“They normally don’t die, but the recovery period is just awful and we’d prefer not to have to watch this sort of thing happen.”
Kupu urged people not to feed their animals with lagoon fish.
“Do not eat it. Do not feed your animals with it. If you are not going to eat it then do not give it to your animals to test whether it is safe.”
An official from the Ministry of Agriculture who asked not to be named said the ministry had reports of animals being poisoned by weedkiller in the past.
He said laws governing pesticide and its distribution were obsolete.
“This needs to be reviewed to avoid further problems caused by pesticide going into the wrong hands.”
The official said pesticide and weedicide users were encouraged to be responsible and take proactive measures when using chemical fertilizers.
But he said considerable consultation and resources would have to be invested into making the transition from farming the conventional way using chemical sprays to organically growing all agriculture produce.
“We have been encouraging growers to use mulching.”
However, Cook Islands Islands environmentalist Ruth Horton said Paraquat should be banned.
“If America and Europe ban it from domestic unqualified use so should we,” Horton said.
“We should not wait until a human suffers to act now. There are plenty of people on the island with skills and the know-how to direct agriculture towards more organic farming, but it seems they are slow to respond or listen.
“Mahatma Gandhi once said. ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’.”