Dog owners warned about dangers of ‘poison parsnip’

The council has erected signage at Hazelbank warning of the possible presence of 'poison parsnip' along the shoreline.
The council has erected signage at Hazelbank warning of the possible presence of 'poison parsnip' along the shoreline.

Newtownabbey Borough Council has erected signage at Hazelbank beach warning pet owners about the potential dangers of ‘poison parsnip’.

The local authority is urging people to be vigilant after a Whiteabbey woman reported that her dog had fallen ill and died, a few days after coming into contact with the toxic plant at Brown’s Bay, Islandmagee on July 31.

While there was no official confirmation of the cause of death of the 22-month-old mastiff, it’s thought to have been poisoned by hemlock water dropwort - also known as poison parsnip. The native plant usually grows along riverbanks, but could have been washed into the sea during recent heavy rain. According to the DOE, its roots are “highly toxic to humans and domesticated animals” and, if ingested, can be lethal.

The local pet owner, who didn’t want to be identified, said the death of her dog had been “devastating.”

“There were no warning signs up at Brown’s Bay. If there had’ve been a sign I would have put my dog straight back into the car and been away. I’d heard about this on other beaches but I thought Brown’s Bay was safe.

“I just want other dog owners to be very, very careful if they are walking their dogs on the beach and to be vigilant about what their dogs might be picking up. People need to be aware of what this poison parsnip looks like,” she commented.

“I just want councils to make people aware that this toxic plant might be there and that if anyone comes across it they shouldn’t let their dog or their child near it. I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

The mastiff’s death is thought to be the second such incident at a Co Antrim beach in the past seven months.

Back in February, a German Shepherd dog died a few days after picking up what is thought to have been ‘poison parsnip’ at Drain’s Bay near Larne.

Newtownabbey Council’s biodiversity officer, Lindsay Houston, said that warning signage erected following the incident in February has now been reinstated along the path between Hazelbank and Loughshore as “a precautionary measure.”

“The parks staff check the beaches for poison parsnip when they are clearing up litter, however none has been found to date. We can’t guarantee that this species will not be washed up between checks which is why the signs have gone up. We will review the situation with regards to the signs at the end of the summer after discussion with DOE,” she commented.

A spokesperson for Larne Council confirmed that following the latest suspected poisoning case, dog owners are being urged to be vigilant.

“Warning signage reminding dog owners of the risks were recently reinstated at local beaches with river outflows following a report that the poisonous weed was present at Brown’s Bay. The council also undertook collection and disposal of any loose roots that could potentially be identified as this poisonous plant,” she told the Times.