Stories of animal abuse and neglect are nothing new. But in San Francisco, there

is a new threat to pets that is especially alarming, as it is more akin to an act of

terrorism aimed at dogs and/or dog owners. Even worse, there are no suspects

in the cases of this cruel new trend.

In July of 2013 and February 2014, strychnine-laced meatballs were scattered in

parts of the city’s Twin Peaks neighborhood, tucked away in carports, stairwells,

curbs, and bushes; places your pet — or quite possibly, a toddler — is likely to

get into before you can shout, “No!”

The incident in February resulted in the death of a 7-year old dachshund, and

several other dogs needing treatment. Fortunately, the latest discovery has

resulted in no deaths, as diligent residents have been on high alert. The Animal

Legal Defense Fund, SFDOG, and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman – himself a

San Francisco resident and dog owner – have teamed up to offer a $25,000

reward to help track down the perpetrator(s) responsible for distributing the

poisoned meatballs, which is a felony.

San Francisco is one of the most pet-progressive cities in the nation, where,

according to 2010 census figures, pets outnumber children 120,000 to 107,000; a

trend not exclusive to the City by the Bay, as evidenced by the explosion of pet

boutiques, events, and services throughout the United States. But not everyone

is pleased about this movement. Landords, park conservationists, and

environmentalists all have legitimate reasons for not wanting dogs in buildings,

parks, or natural habitats.

Are such attacks the new hate crime; the start of a growing trend of terrorism

against dog or dog owners? The director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s

criminal justice program, Scott Heiser, seems to think so. “Sadly, we see these

cases all too often throughout the country. The twisted, sick and, in most cases,

sociopathic individuals who engage in this sort of conduct present a very real

threat to not just the pets in a community but to the humans as well. These

offenders see themselves as answering a higher calling. In their narcissistic

world, it is a short leap from poisoning dogs to culling the community of other

‘unwanteds.’ They can justify almost any conduct in the name of ‘control’ or

‘restoring order’ and that strained logic is more than troubling when used to

legitimize any killing.”

Back in San Francisco, pet owners carry on, cautiously. “It’s been scary for a lot

of people,” says Lena Bella, founder of K9 Master Dog Training and volunteer

organizer at Rocket Dog Rescue. “Many of my clients and adopters have been

walking their dogs with muzzles to be safe. It has made many people very

nervous and uncomfortable even walking their pets.”

If you have information relating to the identity of the person or persons involved,

please contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at 707-795-2533, x1010.