Mysterious Deaths of Dogs At Riverside Park Leave Pet Owners on Edge

The ASPCA is investigating whether four dogs who became violently ill and then died after walking in Riverside Park were intentionally poisoned.

The dogs all walked in the same general area of the park-- between 136th and 140th Streets-- on July 17 or July 18.

One of the dogs was Charlie, a 10-year-old terrier mix, whose family couldn’t bear to say goodbye.

“We tried our best to make peace with that.  He was euthanized, and ever since, just been looking to figure out what happened,” said a tearful  Kim Heismann, Charlie’s owner.

Heismann, 47, was out of town on July 17 when her roommate took Charlie and her own dog, a year old Chihuahua named Yoda, for a walk in Riverside Park.  A short time later, the otherwise healthy animals suffered seizures and died hours apart.

“It was totally overwhelming,” said Heismann.

The marketing consultant who shares the loss with her 7-year-old son identified two other dogs in their Hamilton Heights neighborhood who died similar deaths.  Though heatstroke was initially suspected, the reported discovery by a maintenance worker of some dead sparrows and a dead cat deepened the mystery.

A spokesperson for the Parks Department told PIX 11 the agency hasn’t put down rat bait in Riverside Park since the spring,  after a red tailed hawk was found poisoned.

“I think someone has put out poison into the park, and I don’t know what they intended,” said Heismann, who has put up warning signs in the park.

The unexplained animal deaths have prompted some dog owners to avoid the park.  Others like Cesar Rebollar continue to walk their dogs there but are being extra careful.

“I am concerned for my dog.  I have heard of dogs dying,” said Rebollar who now won’t allow his pit bull Smokey on the grass and walks him only on the pavement.