A dog which began convulsing and foaming at the mouth and died 40 minutes later is thought to have been poisoned.

The owner of the Labrador, called Duke, was at a shoot on an estate in Midhurst when the dog picked up a partially eaten pheasant carcass.

Moments later, Duke started convulsing and foaming at the mouth. Forty minutes later, the dog was dead. Duke was buried the next day. Tests carried out by the owner suggested that the dog might have been poisoned. 

The Argus: Duke the Labrador died after picking up a pheasantDuke the Labrador died after picking up a pheasant (Image: Submitted)

Duke’s owner informed the shoot manager about the possible poisoning of his dog and was subsequently paid several thousand pounds compensation by the estate. He also reported the poisoning to the RSPB and police. 

The incident has been investigated in a report by the bird charity which also reveals the circumstances around the death of white-tailed eagle on the same estate.

Just three days prior to the dog’s death, on October 15, 2021, a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England reintroduction project sent back data which suggested it was no longer moving and presumed dead.  

Sussex Police at Midhurst were notified and the RSPB assisted with a land search on the estate in West Sussex.

The eagle’s body was eventually found wedged in a tree. The bird was sent for toxicology testing by the police which confirmed it had died as a result of ingesting the lethal poison Bendiocarb. 

The Argus: The sea eagle which was found dead in MidhurstThe sea eagle which was found dead in Midhurst (Image: RSPB Investigations)

The police investigation into the case resulted in the dog being exhumed and tests confirmed the presence of Bendiocarb, a highly toxic insecticide in the dog’s body, the same poison that had killed the eagle.

Bendiocarb is banned in its strongest form and will be banned completely next year. However, despite the police investigation into the poisoning of the dog and white-tailed eagle, two years on, no charges have been brought. 

The killing of this eagle is historically significant as it is the first confirmed case of the illegal persecution of a white-tailed Eagle in England since these birds were persecuted to extinction in the late 1700s. 

Mark Thomas, RSPB’s head of investigations said: “This is a tragic case. Whilst we don’t know who had the poison, the laying of any poisoned bait in the open is illegal and indiscriminate and has been encountered before in cases involving those who wish to deliberately kill birds of prey.

“The intended target species often depends on the associated land use or activity. On land associated with gamebird releasing and management, the most frequent victims are red kites and common buzzards. Although white-tailed eagles are unlikely to be the intended target of these crimes these opportunistic scavengers are as at risk as any other bird of prey, especially in their first year when satellite-tagging data has shown they wander far and wide.  

“This case also raises again a related issue around the safety of people’s much loved pet dogs. The fact that no charges have yet been brought is bitterly disappointing.” 

The RSPB's chief operating officer James Robinson said: “Sadly, once again, the report documents the shameful illegal killing of rare and vulnerable birds of prey, an important part of our natural heritage.

“Given the correlation in location between birds of prey persecution and land under game management, the RSPB is calling for greater regulation of shooting, in particular intensive forms of grouse shooting. A Bill to introduce licensing of grouse moors in Scotland to stop raptor persecution is now moving ahead and we need a similar response in England."