Their dogs kept getting cancer and dying. All signs pointed to a local park

Residents of the Springfield Township in Pennsylvania are demanding action after they say dogs have been developing cancer and dying after playing in Peppermint Park.
Residents of the Springfield Township in Pennsylvania are demanding action after they say dogs have been developing cancer and dying after playing in Peppermint Park.

David Bretz had two dogs die in two months, he told CBS Philly. His neighbor Sandy Rice shared his pain. She told the station she lost one dog at the end of 2017 and another a few months later.

“It’s unbelievable. They were a part of our family,” she told the station.

They are among at least 10 recent deaths among local dogs in Springfield Township, Penn., according to the Bucks County Herald, and owners don’t believe the deaths – all from canine cancer – are a coincidence. Instead they point to one common denominator: Peppermint Park.

The first-ever public park created in the township of Springfield, the area of Peppermint Park was used for more than 50 years as a hay farm, according to a report from the Township’s Environmental Advisory Council. Most of the area was turned into a grassy recreation area with a walking trail, which was dedicated in 2016.

But as part of its creation, a new contract was issued that allowed a farmer to harvest hay on the undeveloped area of the park, and to use chemicals herbicides to cut down weeds while doing so. It’s those chemicals that owners say caused their dogs, each of which played in or near the park, to develop cancer and die, The Intelligencer reported.

At issue are the similar herbicides 2,4-D and Dicamba, which work to kill leafy weeds while leaving grasses unharmed. There is debate over whether the chemicals are harmful to humans and animals.

A report from Cornell University found that most of the chemical was excreted without ill-effect in humans and rats, though some dogs given low-levels of the herbicide in their food for two years did die. More than 20 years ago, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a connection between development of tumors in dogs and when owners hired lawn companies to treat their grass with 2, 4-D. Many other researchers have looked into the chemical since then, with some finding significant evidence to link it to cancer in dogs and others finding a minimal effect.

It is not classified as a carcinogen by the federal government.

“There can be no certainty in my opinion, because cancer is a complex and multi-factorial disease,” Beth Overley-Adamson, a veterinary oncologist, told The Intelligencer when the paper asked about the connection.

Concerns first arose in 2016, where pressure from citizens prompted the council to release a report recommending advance notice of spraying, closing the park for a window around spraying time and having the farmer use special nozzles to reduce the possibility the chemicals would drift.

Now the issue has resurfaced. Residents crowded a township meeting and made “passionate” pleas for prohibition of the herbicides, 6ABC reported.

During the meeting, one resident reportedly asked if the area was “a park or a business,” according to the Bucks County Herald. “They have got to change their ways,” David Bretz, the man who lost two dogs in two months, told the paper. “It should be a walk in the park, and it’s not.”

Several dozen residents signed a petition asking the township supervisors to “put into effect a ban on the further use of 2,4-D in the fields at Peppermint Park” and to “ban the application of any other substances that might be harmful or dangerous to children, pets, or wildlife.”

It has received 48 signatures out of a goal of 50. The township had a little more than 3,400 residents as of the 2010 Census.

The farmer, Anthony Renner, defended his use of the herbicide and said his buyer would reject his whole load if a single weed was found and that the chemical was safe two days after spraying. “If there was a way around it, I would do it,” he said, according to the Bucks County Herald.

The township plans to continue discussing the issue on April 10, according to The Intelligencer.