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May 6, 2010 12:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Dog poisoned; was it whale meat?

May 6, 2010 12:43 PM

Josh Brussell, an East Hampton High School teacher, took his dog Sydney, a 2-year-old Australian Shepherd, for a walk along Wiborg Beach in East Hampton last Thursday. But by that evening, something had gone terribly wrong. Sydney had lapsed into a coma.

Mr. Brussell took his pet to Dr. Jonathan Turetsky at the Veterinary Clinic and Hospital of East Hampton. Dr. Turetsky, in turn, recommended that the dog be transferred to the East End Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Riverhead.

“I thought for sure we were going to lose her,” Mr. Brussell said. When tests showed high level of barbiturates in Sydney’s urine, he began to grow suspicious.

He thought back to the humpback whale that beached itself at Main Beach on April 6 and was later euthanized by a combination of sedatives injected via large darts and of rifle shots to the skull. The dead whale was cut up and removed from the beach.

“We have no idea what caused it, but I’m assuming it was something she ate on the beach,” Mr. Brussell said, stressing that he did not know if the source of the poison was whale meat or came from another source on the beach or elsewhere.

“I don’t want to be the person who starts an uproar,” he said, “But I want people to know what happened so they can take care” for their pets and children. Mr. Brussell filed a report with the East Hampton Town Police and posted his story on his Facebook page.

Veterinarians pumped Sydney’s stomach and administered lipids, and within 36 hours of lapsing into the coma, the dog was on the mend. Mr. Brussell was able to bring her home from the animal hospital on Sunday.

Mr. Brussell said one veterinarian told him that the meat removed from Sydney’s stomach resembled shark or whale meat, but he said they would not know for sure until the results of DNA and toxicology tests are back from the laboratory later this month.

There was one silver lining to the episode, which has so far set Mr. Brussell back about $4,100. A biology and forensics teacher, Mr. Brussell found an unexpected teaching aid. “We definitely talked about it in class,” he said.

Doug Kuntz, a freelance photographer, contributed to this story.

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So happy that the dog survived and that the cause of its coma was discovered. Walking on the beach can be so dangerous and that is so sad to have to say.
By Fabiola (11), Southampton on May 6, 10 11:25 AM
$4,100?! Sorry but I have a big back yard and plenty of shovels if that happens to MY dog.
By DrEngine (10), Brookhaven on May 6, 10 11:41 AM
I feel so sorry for your dog DrEngine - My dog is a family member and I would find a way just like Mr. Brussells did
By jacks (70), hampton bays on May 6, 10 12:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
Dr. engine makes sense. These vets are thieves playing on the emotions of people who don't understand human lives have more value than pet lives; jacks, I feel sorry for your children if they have the same status as your dogs
By realdeal (23), Southampton on May 6, 10 1:26 PM
Wow. Do you guys have jobs that charge for products or services? Somehow you feel that vets shouldn't charge because they love animals. Who is going to pay the rent on the building? Who is going to pay for the tests? Who is going to pay their hourly wage? Or their student loans?

Its ok for a hotel to jack up prices in Louisiana, gouging the reporters and members of the scientific community that are dealing with an ecological disaster, but it's not fair for a veterinarian to charge ...more
By DogLover (14), Wainscott on May 6, 10 7:42 PM
Glad the pooch pulled through, and sorry that the vet went long on the charges. For something like this, where the Riverhead emergency facility got some valuable publicity for its skills, a nice rebate would be in order. Pooches are truly innocents, givers of love and devotion. So it takes a particular person to walk away from doing the utmost to try saving a poisoned dog.
By colonelshousealum (11), westhampton beach on May 6, 10 3:45 PM
I am sorry that the dog had to go through so much! It is wonderful that he recovered, I just don't get it. If you walk your dog on the beach shouldn't you be aware of what the dog is doing?? Seems the dog was not under Mr. Brussells control. I hope he had a plastic bag wit him!! So many beach dog walker do not!!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on May 6, 10 4:24 PM
Are you serious?

As you know EH has no leash law so when most people, myself included, bring our dogs to the beach, we let them run to strecth their legs. Any dog owner knows that you cannot fully control what dogs get into or what they get in their mouths at the beach.

to try and blame the dog owner for this is just moronic.
By tm (174), mtk on May 6, 10 5:12 PM
What about the larger issue of contaminated whale meat laced with barbiturates from our whale "Montauk?" Would the remains of Montauk have lasted this long in the surf? Doubtful IMO.

Did the dog actually find the missing dart?

The resolution of this may take a while, but could be enlightening IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 6, 10 7:16 PM
PS -- Did the missing dart end up in another whale or shark, whose flesh the dog ate?

Will we ever know the truth about any of this?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 6, 10 7:18 PM
Yes, it ended up in a whale and/or shark, that washed up on the beach, that wasn't reported, that somehow got blown to pieces so small that the dog ate it without the owners noticing it.

I hope you're not actually a conspiracy theorist... and no, we won't even know the "truth" about what happened to the missing dart. That doesn't surprise you, does it?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 7, 10 3:38 PM
I wonder if Sydney didn't step on the missing dart???

Wonderful to hear she made a full recovery. Dr. Turetsky and his staff are wonderful, and so are the staff at East End Emergency - Sydney was in great hands.

You two sound like wonderful pet parents :)
By DogLover (14), Wainscott on May 6, 10 7:45 PM
My dog Marco needed stitches back in 2006 and my regular vet was closed so we went their to East End Emergency Vet.They tell you right up front if you can't pay you either have the dog euthanized or leave.800.00 total.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on May 7, 10 10:04 AM
My dog had a large fatty tumor removed last year at a animal hospital in Southampton. As it blew up to the size of a baseball in a short period and was affecting his walking, I decided to put him through it, dispite his age, as it was a quality of life issue.

Expecting a $2000. bill, I was pleasantly surprised to be charged $600. Not bad considering the drugs, the Dr.'s and tech time and 3 post op visits.

I have heard some horror stories on outrageous vet bills originating from ...more
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on May 7, 10 12:54 PM
BTW any results from the necropsy of our whale "Montauk?"


If the multiple rifle shots, and ensuing barbiturates darts, did not murder Montauk, what did?

Just a thought.

How easily we forget the past IMO.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 7, 10 7:30 PM
You live in your own unique world, don't you?

How would you have saved the whale?
By Terry (380), Southampton on May 8, 10 11:22 AM
Another good reason why dogs shouldn't be allowed on beaches.

If God wanted dogs at the beach, He would have given them wings and made them seagulls.
By btdt (449), water mill on May 8, 10 12:28 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By pride of bonac (42), easthampton on May 8, 10 8:17 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By pride of bonac (42), easthampton on May 8, 10 8:16 PM