St. Vital City Coun. Brian Mayes is asking the city to look into its gopher program after a dog ate nearly a cup of poison pellets at a Winnipeg park, while a University of Manitoba researcher says poison should be scrapped completely.

“I have real concerns if this stuff wasn’t put in the ground correctly,” said Mayes. “If there’s a risk of poisoning kids and dogs then we’ve done something pretty seriously wrong here if that’s the case.”

Mayes said he has been fielding numerous calls from dog owners and parents who are concerned about the poison in parks.

The worry stems from an incident at Little Mountain Park where a dog ate poison pellets intended for gophers and needed emergency veterinary care as a result. The dog survived, but some dog owners have expressed concern since.

“They’re putting out poison to control the gopher population, and we think dogs are getting into it,” he said. “We don’t know if kids are getting into it, and we don’t know … how long has this been going on?”

Mayes spoke to a city committee on Friday, saying he wants to know if the city is doing the same thing in other parks where kids and dogs could access the poison.

After the reports of dog poisoning, the City of Winnipeg suspended its gopher program, a move welcomed by the Little Mountain Dog Club.

Member Kristy Greening said the club is pleased with the city’s efforts, and the dog who was poisoned is OK.

Decades old program called inhumane by researcher

The city’s manager of parks and open space, Dave Domke, said the gopher control program is important to control Richardson's ground squirrels, which make holes in city parks.

“We have had incidents where people have complained about straining or breaking their legs — same with pets,” said Domke. “We feel obligated to ensure public safety.”

Domke said the method has been used for decades, and a dog would have to ingest its own weight in poison to be killed.

University of Manitoba researcher James Hare said the poison pellets are inhumane.

“It’s just a miserable way to go,” said Hare.

Hare works with rodents at the university and said there are better methods.

“One can use live traps and euthanize them humanely,” he said.