Wakefield’s Katie Pearless with her children Tayla, 8, and Lewie, 2, with their remaining dog Baz. Photo: Andrew Board.

River algae kills family puppy


A family puppy died last week after it was poisoned by some toxic algae in the Waimea River.

Wakefield’s Stacey and Katie Lines took their two children and two eight month old puppies to the Waimea River, at Appleby last Thursday night for a swim. The whole family went into the river and after the swim drove back to Wakefield.

It wasn’t until they unloaded the car that they noticed something was wrong with one of their dogs, Betty. “When we opened the car door she was convulsing. I just started crying and said ‘Stace, Stace, you’ve got to do something’.”

Stacey called the vet, rushed her into Richmond, but it was too late. Betty died in the car so Stacey turned around and came home. Katie says her tongue was very blue. “I can’t explain it, it was so blue like she’d had no air.”

The algae is called Cyanobacteria produces the neurotoxin anatoxin, which is potentially lethal to dogs, stock and humans when ingested in large amounts. Dogs that are known to eat the algae are most at risk. The algae has been a problem in Nelson’s Maitai River for some time but not in the Waimea river until now. Because it is naturally occurring bacteria and not the result of outside contamination, there is little that can be done to eliminate it apart from waiting for the river to be cleared naturally by significant rainfall increasing flows.

Nelson City Council’s Martin Workman says people need to be vigilant with their dogs.

“As the weather warms up and water levels remain stable, the problem is likely to worsen. Warning signs have been erected at swimming holes as a precautionary approach and to raise public awareness.”

Katie says she wants other families to be aware of the risk so they don’t have to go through the same “miserable” experience.

“It’s the river. We never thought there’d be something in there that could kill our dogs and our kids were in there swimming too. What if one went under and took a gulp of the water? It’s obviously not very nice stuff.”