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Home Unsubstantiated Circulating Message Claims a Dog Died after Playing With a Poisoned Filled Nerf Football

Circulating Message Claims a Dog Died after Playing With a Poisoned Filled Nerf Football

by Brett M. Christensen


Circulating Facebook message claims that a dog playing at a community dog park died minutes after picking up a poison-filled Nerf football he found. 

Brief Analysis

The warning does not name the park, the city, or even the country where the alleged poisoning occurred. Nor are the dog’s owners identified. However, I have contacted the person who originally posted the message and she has confirmed that Jake did die as described. And, Pet360 reports that they have also identified and spoken to the dog’s owner. While the owner does still suspect that the ball may have caused the dog’s death, toxicology tests could not be performed. There is no evidence that the dog died of poisoning and his death may well have been the result of other factors. However, dog owners should certainly remain vigilant. Dog baiting does occur, including a recent incident in San Francisco in which two dogs became ill after eating poisoned meatballs left on the street.


Last night my sister’s dog, Jake, was at the community dog park. He was playing and running and having a blast. He picked up a Nerf football that was just laying around. He immediately dropped it and shook his head. He got a drink and played a bit longer. Then all of a sudden he wanted to go home. When he got home a few moments later, he laid down and in minutes he was dead. This was a wonderful, healthy 4-yr old Golden Retriever mx. Apparently someone didn’t like the dog park and had left the ball full of poison. So NEVER, NEVER, NEVER LET YOUR DOG PICK UP ANYTHING THAT HE DIDN’T BRING WITH HIM! Any toys abandoned should immediately be put in the trash! This was a horrible loss and my sister is devastated! I doubt they will ever know who did this, but don’t be the next victim. Spread the word–SAVE A LIFE!



Detailed Analysis

This message, which is currently circulating via Facebook and other social media sites, describes a case in which a dog died after playing with a poisoned-laced Nerf football he found discarded at a community dog park. 

According to the warning, four-year-old Golden Retriever, Jake, picked up the ball, but immediately dropped it. The message claims that Jake died a few minutes later after returning home. It advises people to never let their dogs pick up anything they didn’t bring with them and asks that people spread the word to warn other dog owners.

The message does not indicate what park, what city, or even what country the alleged poisoning occurred in. Nor does it identify Jake’s owners. However, I have contacted Jayne Hawthorne, the person who posted the message, and she has confirmed that her sister Kim’s dog Jake did die suddenly as described. She notes in an email:

I am the person who posted the original story. Yes, we don’t know exactly how Jake died. All we know is that in the short 3 weeks that the dog park was open the gates are being left open and the main gate has been damaged. Jake dies suddenly after being completely healthy, and only 5 days after Jake died there was broken glass in the play area. It appears that someone isn’t happy about the dog park at that location.


My sister was in complete shock and all alone. She didn’t put the pieces together until later relaying the events to my Mom on the phone. It was then that she went back to get the ball. It had to be about a half an hour from the time Jake picked up that ball and by the time he was dead.


To set the record straight, Jake had ben running and playing for some time before picking up the nerf ball. His heart was pumping, and the blood circulating faster than at rest. Then, Jake drank water. That, too, sped up the pace of absorption. Then Jake ran 1 or 2 more laps before going home where he collapsed and died.

Soon after the incident, Pet360 spoke to  Kim Demeter, of St. Petersburg, Florida. Demeter confirmed that the dog died as described in the message. But, it was not until after the dog had been rushed to a vet and subsequently died that Demeter made a possible connection to the ball in the park.

Demeter retrieved the ball from the park in case another dog or a child picked it up. By then, however, Jake’s body had been frozen and toxicology tests could not be conducted. Therefore, there is still no evidence that poison on the ball was actually Jake’s cause of death. The Pet360 article noted:

Keith Niesenbaum, a veterinarian who owns three veterinary clinics in New York, including Farmingdale Dog and Cat Hospital in Farmingdale, N.Y. says without a necropsy on Jake, assuming cause of death is pure speculation.“There’s no hard evidence of poisoning,” says Niesenbaum who says he couldn’t think of many poisons that would work that quickly.


Niesenbaum says any number of things could have killed Jake suddenly, including a bee sting or a genetic defect unknown to Jake’s mom and veterinarian.

That said, dog owners certainly should remain vigilant when they are out and about with their animals. Ideally, owners should teach their dogs not to pick up discarded objects or eat found food. Dog baiting does occur from time to time in various locations around the world. In fact, as recently as July 2013, two dogs in San Francisco became ill after eating poison-laced meatballs they found on the street.

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Brett Christensen