UPDATE – Village officials reopened the dog park Friday afternoon, after an outside company sanitized the facility. The Village said the cost of the cleaning was about $2,200, which included some other needed maintenance.
Key Biscayne officials said Tuesday the source of what’s believed to be rat poison at the island’s dog park remains unknown, and that they are not ruling out foul play — and it’s not known how long the park will remain closed.
“I’m looking into everything,” said Charles Press, the island’s police chief, who is also serving as interim manager.
The first reports of a “commercial-grade chemical” were made by residents last week, according to Todd Hofferberth, the director of parks and recreation for the Village. Gates to the dog park have been closed and padlocked.
Hofferberth said Village staff never use rat poison at the park and the substance was not placed there by employees, adding that an investigation into how the poison was placed is under way.
The chemicals were placed in the area set aside for larger dogs. Hofferberth clarified that there was a report of one dog ingesting the suspected poison, but said the information was anecdotal. There have been no reports of animal fatalities, officials said.
The investigation comes on the heels of suspected arson at the Key Biscayne Beach Club in January, when chickee huts were set ablaze. Earlier incidents of soap being placed in areas such as fish ponds and public fountains also raised concerns of increasing violence.
Hofferberth could not say when the park would reopen, saying he has reached out to a clean-up company to ensure all toxic material has been removed.
“Prevention of injury to people and pets is our top priority,” Hofferberth said.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.