San Francisco dog walkers are being warned to watch out for poisonous meatballs that reportedly have been left along city streets and have sickened two pooches in Twin Peaks.
Police issued a warning about the potentially deadly meatballs that were discarded in the Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights neighborhoods, especially in the area of Crestline Drive and Burnett Avenue.
More poisoned-meat discoveries have been reported in the Cole Valley, Hayes Valley and Bernal Heights neighborhoods, said Dr. Carrie Jurney, a board-certified neurologist at Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services. One of the dogs, an 7-year-old Dachshund named Oskar, is being treated there.
Oskar became sick after going for a walk with his owner, 61-year-old Dorothy Schechter, about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Schechter said Oscar had never before had medical problems, but she knew something was wrong after he grabbed the tiny ball of meat on their normal walk around Crestline Drive and Burnett Avenue. She couldn't get out of his mouth, and he started seizing only minutes later.
"I thought he was just nervous with all the fireworks," she said. "But this was more. I gathered him up and took him to the vet. He's still there now. They're keeping him for observation."
Schechter said she thinks the meatballs were placed deliberately, though, she doesn't know who would do such a thing.
"The way they were placed so dogs would sniff them out," she said. "If you want fame or 15 minutes of fame, for heavens sakes, you don't need to go about it in this manner."
Schechter said she and her neighbors gathered bags of the small balls of meat to give to the police. She worried more dogs and even small children could be poisioned too, if the people responsible were not found.
"This is horrible and unnecessary to cause grief like this," Schechter said. "It's the saddest thing I can imagine."
Oskar was in critical but stable condition Thursday, Jurney said.
Jeanette Oliver, a manager of Diamond Heights Shopping Center Inc., said customers told her Wednesday that they had picked up 50 or more pieces of meat.
"Parents should also be watchful of their children in that vicinity," Oliver added.
Granules in the meatballs indicate the poisonous substance is strychnine, Jurney said, but she added that toxicology tests are still pending.
Symptoms to look out for include agitation, seizures, hyperthermia, trouble breathing, and hypersensitivity to sound, light and touch.
It's unclear who has been planting the meatballs and why, Jurney said. Lacing food has been used to control wildlife populations such as coyotes, skunks or raccoons, Jurney said, but there are more humane and safe methods available these days.
"I hope it's not intentional toward dogs," Jurney said.
Those who find meatballs are encouraged to wear gloves when handling them and to call police, Officer Albie Esparza said.
Any dog that ingests the tainted meat should be brought to an emergency vet immediately, Jurney said.
S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Andrea Koskey contributed to this report.