Bucks County Herald

Nine more canine cancers emerge in Springfield area

Park herbicide use suspected


Nine more cases of canine cancer have emerged following an initial case in Springfield Township. And several of those affected have one thing in common: They have all spent time in Peppermint Park or live in the vicinity of the park.

The township’s dual-use policy also allows the site to be farmed for hay, but as early as January 2016, concerns have been raised about the amount of and type of chemicals used to control the weeds there.

Farmer Anthony Renner, who leases the land from the township, and township administrators have repeatedly defended the use of one of these herbicides, 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, saying it is harmless, but critics, among them the township’s own Environmental Advisory Council, cite several studies showing its harmful effect on dogs in particular and say its repeated use over the past two and a half years is incompatible with the public use of the park.

In February, township supervisors imposed a two-week ban on public access following any spraying, but exasperated and fearful residents, who began meeting informally following the Herald’s initial report, are now calling for an immediate halt to any further farming, which is not set to expire until December 2020 under the current lease agreement.

“It’s not just the herbicides. No further farming at the park,” said David Bretz, who on Feb. 24 lost a second Swiss mountain dog to lymphoma, almost a month after his first dog had to be euthanized. Bretz says there are now five confirmed cases of that cancer, and four documented cases of dogs with other types of cancers, such as mouth and spleen.

Christine Rice, who lives across from the park, lost her 9-year-old pitbull to lymphoma. Rice regularly took her dog to the park to play in the grass there because she didn’t feel safe walking on Peppermint Road, an long, undulating route with an even longer record of reckless drivers. Although she can’t prove a link to the cocktail of chemicals that were sprayed, she thinks it’s too much of a coincidence to not be true. She, like several of the nearby residents, is scornful of the dual-use policy. “This is our only public park in the township, and it should only be a public park. It can’t be both.”

Those who didn’t take their dogs to the park said they were still adversely affected by the spraying. “When he (Renner) sprays, we cannot get rid of the fumes. We have everything – aided by the winds – come across the street right into our property. We get it all,” sighed Jen Brader, who also lives across the street. “We lost our Labrador retriever, 13, to spleen cancer on Feb. 28. We never went to the park, but I have a puppy that I have now stopped bringing over.”

“Whenever he applies 2-4,D, you can smell it in the house even with the air conditioning on and the windows closed,” said Brader’s neighbor, Sandy Rice. “I did call the township last fall and was told, ‘What do you want me to do?’ ” The first of Rice’s two Labradors died of lymphoma Dec. 31; the second two weeks ago, on March 13.

“I’m very upset. When you lose one dog it’s sad, but when you lose two dogs it’s a kick in the gut. I have another dog, a 4-year-old spaniel, and I’m having her checked out at the vet.”

Several in the group are also worried about their own health, given the initial lack of public warnings and, until recently, brief three-day ban on access following spraying.

Ed Ziegler, a volunteer, had been mowing weekly around the pathways since the park’s inception. This year, however, he won’t be. More ominously, he said, “I have a doctor’s appointment on the fourth of April. I will let you know what’s up after that.”

“There’s nothing the township can do to take away the exposure we’ve already undergone. Our dogs are like canaries in the coalmine,” Sandy Rice said. “Something was going on and they, unfortunately, bore the brunt of it. I just don’t want it to happen again to anybody else’s dog or a little kid or person who walks up there.”



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