Last week, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (SFPC) confirmed the report that two dogs died shortly after a claim that that they had visited The Outback Off-Leash Area at Shelby Farms Park. Yesterday, a veterinarian confirmed that the cause of death was heat stroke and was not related to the water in the off-leash area. Additionally, local veterinary clinics have reported no cases of toxin exposure in their clinics.
Testing has shown that fluctuating toxin levels in the ponds in The Outback Off-Leash Area range from non-detectable to non-harmful levels according to EPA standards, which are based on human contact thresholds. Even though the presence of toxin levels is low, dogs may be more susceptible to adverse effects because they can ingest the toxins both by drinking water or by licking their fur after swimming or wading.
The ponds in The Outback will remain closed out of an abundance of caution until further notice. This will allow SFPC time to conduct additional research and learn more from other parks across the country that are also dealing with this year’s high potential for toxic algae blooms.
While testing showed that blue-green algae was present at the time of testing in most ponds in The Outback, this is not uncommon or unexpected as it can be part of a natural lake ecosystem. Blue-green algae can, but does not always, produce toxins based on a range of variable conditions, and levels can fluctuate based on those conditions.
Ponds in parks across the country are dealing with the increase of blue-green algae that is common during summer months. As our climate grows warmer, our ponds will be more susceptible to potential toxin-producing blooms. While these reported canine deaths were not attributed to exposure to algae toxins, Shelby Farms Park Conservancy is working to keep our visitors more informed to help them make the best decisions for their pets regarding summertime swimming.
Work is being done by MLG&W near the Walnut Grove bridge at the Wolf River in the Lucius Burch Natural Area. Pleaes be alert in this area.