Residents distraught as pets get poisoned in Saigon expat hub

By Long Nguyen   June 20, 2021 | 01:02 am PT
A spate of poisoning deaths has grief-stricken owners of cats and dogs in Saigon’s expat hub demanding an investigation to find the culprits.

It’s been a week they lost Peanut, a two-month-old Beagle puppy and the couple are still in mourning.

Olivier Tognetti and his wife are among the residents of Thao Dien Ward in District 2 who have lost their pets to unknown miscreants poisoning them.

On June 13, Tognetti, French citizen living in the area for around two years, took his dog out for a morning walk and saw her vomit a few hours later, after eating something at a corner of Truc Duong Street.

The couple immediately took their dog to a vet, but Peanut died several hours later.

Peanut was a two-year-old puppy. Photo courtesy of Olivier Tognetti .

Peanut was a two-year-old puppy. Photo courtesy of Olivier Tognetti.

"The vet diagnosed her with severe poisoning and signs of epilepsy," the 45-year-old Frenchman said, adding that his family has suffered a huge loss.

But, more importantly, he added, there have been many cats and dogs in Thao Dien that have died with signs of poisoning in the last few years.

"At the clinic, we learned that our dog was the fourth to die over the weekend, along with a cat," he told VnExpress International.

Not too far from Tognetti’s house, Frederique, French teacher at an international school in downtown Saigon, is also mourning the death of her dog, Noi.

On June 12, she had taken her dogs Noi and Youmi out for an evening walk. At around 1 a.m., hearing Noi barking, she woke up and saw her little puppy vomit.

Noi died about an hour later at a local clinic.

"I am so sad. I have cried for days," said Frederique, who lives alone and moved to Saigon from Indonesia last August.

Many residents of Thao Dien, HCMC’s expat hub, have had their pets die with signs of poisoning in the last few weeks.

Huong, another Thao Dien resident who refused to reveal her real name, has also been crying over the death of her four-month-old puppy on June 7.

Cream, the puppy, had vomited and been taken to a local vet.

This is not the first time that mystery killers have been stalking pets in the neighborhood. In 2007, after several cats and dogs died of poisoning, many residents told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that "someone or a group has been poisoning dogs in the neighborhood."

Noi at her owners house in Thao Dien. Photo courtesy of Frederique.

Noi at her owner's house in Thao Dien, HCMC. Photo courtesy of Frederique.

As they mourn their pets, Thao Dien residents, both Vietnamese and foreigners, have collectively signed an online petition to raise awareness of pet safety.

On June 13-14, in the Lang Bao Chi area in Thao Dien, four dogs and one cat died around the same time with similar symptoms: epilepsy followed by sudden death, the petition said.

"We took one of the dogs to Sai Gon Vet, where doctor Nguyen Van Nghia diagnosed her with severe poisoning. This was no rat poison, this was specifically targeted at cats and dogs," the petition noted, calling for action against the crime.

Many residents in the area are now worried that the poison can somehow affect children and adults.

The petition was started on June 13 by Olivier Tognetti and his wife, in collaboration with Laws for Paws Vietnam, a pet welfare organization in the country.

The Frenchman, his Vietnamese wife and many other Thao Dien residents hope the local police will investigate the issue and bring back safety and peace of mind to the neighborhood.

No witness, evidence

Tognetti said he had reported the death of Peanut to local police, who told him they had no witness and evidence to start their investigation. He is now waiting for a medical report of his dog’s death before taking further action.

In the meantime, his family, devastated by what happened last week, feels insecure and is thinking about relocating.

"I hope those trying to poison our pets will stop their cruel actions, because they hurt many people and cause longstanding scars," he said.

He advised those owning pets in the Thao Dien area in particular and across Vietnam in general to be more careful when taking their animal friends out, because "there is always a risk."

"I wish I’d known this earlier. It is too late for Peanut, though. Nothing can replace her."

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