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Four dogs died after eating poisoned meatballs at a cross-country event in southern France in what authorities described as a “heinous act”.
Three of the dogs died before the start of the popular canicross race at Vauvert last Sunday, which sees pets and their owners go head-to-head in a long-distance race.
Police closed the area to the public, but tragically two other dogs have since been poisoned after their walker allegedly took them through the barricades.
One of the pets died on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll in the grim saga to four.
The twisted poisoner is still at large and is believed to have mixed the poison with the meat while wearing gloves to avoid detection by police.
A Husky called Togo (pictured), was rushed to a veterinary clinic in Montpellier after sniffing out poisoned dog vomit, and was thankfully rescued
The poisonings took place during the French canicross championship, which sees pets and their owners compete in a long-distance race (stock image)
During the first attack last Sunday, four dogs were poisoned during the championship race, which took place on a vast course in the Chemin de Beauvoisin sector.
Three of the four pooches, named Oslo, Palma and Opale, sadly died within minutes of each other after eating the meatballs, according to Midi Libre.
Palma owner Yannick told La Voix Nord the three animals fell 15 seconds apart and his beloved pet died in his arms.
The fourth dog, a Husky called Togo, was rushed to a veterinary clinic in Montpellier after sniffing out the poisoned dog’s vomit, and was thankfully rescued.
The event was canceled as the full scale of the shocking incident emerged early on Sunday morning.
Yannick says his wife “saved dozens of dogs” as the horror unfolded, warning other runners arriving at the event not to get out of their cars.
On the site, the remains of pellets vomited by the dogs were recovered by the police.
The poison had been cruelly mixed into meatballs, and tests have since been carried out.
The DNA analysis of the recovered poison has been underway in a specialized laboratory in Lyon since Thursday.
Investigators have little hope of identifying the author by this method, reports France 3 Regions, because the poisoner was probably wearing gloves.
Three beloved dogs, named Oslo, Palma and Opale, sadly died 15 minutes apart after eating the poisoned meatballs
Investigations are still ongoing, with detectives sifting through hours of CCTV footage to identify any suspicious activity.
“All the videos from the city cameras are being analyzed, it is a huge job because they have to be analyzed one by one in order to identify a possible suspicious vehicle,” they said in a statement.
The area has since been cordoned off, but on Tuesday, according to investigators, “a resident went to walk his dogs on the spot, despite the numerous prohibition signs posted on the spot”. One of the animals did not survive.
If found, the Nîmes prosecutor’s office will charge the perpetrator with acts of cruelty to animals, which means he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros, according to France 3.
Togo the Husky was rescued by vets. Investigators are desperately trying to find the perpetrator of the heinous act
Canine sports group the Fédération des Sports et Loisirs Canins (FSLC) condemned the attack as “an abject criminal act” which had left the team “traumatized”.
The groups’ vets, who were on the scene and fought desperately to save the lives of the three dogs, had been “helpless in the face of human cruelty”, he said.
Its vice-president, Émilie Nelson, claimed that a “dozen” meatballs containing “black grains” had been discovered in the park.
The nature of the toxic substance has still not been determined, but the analysis of the samples continues.
Ms Nelson called the day a ‘nightmare’ and said the attack on the dogs was ‘extreme violence’ which could also have harmed children.
Federation President Yvon Lasbleiz called the incident a “heinous act” and paid tribute to the sporting dogs who died.
“Oslo, Palma and Opale, your owners have lost an unconditional love, a companion who offered comfort, security and shared a common passion.
“You had become an integral part of their family. We know how much they will miss you, the love they had for you; we understand their pain so well.
“May fond memories bring some comfort and peace to those who have shared your life.”
Sunday’s canicross race was a qualifying round for the German world championships in October.
The sport involves riders leading their trained dogs over long courses and has become increasingly popular in France in recent years, both competitively and in clubs.
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Four dogs die in France after eating poisoned meatballs strewing dog cross race
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