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Man Whose Dog Was Poisoned Seeks $100,000

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Utah man is seeking $100,000 from the federal government after his 2-year-old dog died from exposure to cyanide gas.

Jenna died in February 2006 after setting off a trap meant for livestock predators while hunting for rabbits with owner Sam Pollock on federal land in eastern Utah.

"The more I can do to get this out there to let people know these things are out there, the better chance we have of getting these things off public land altogether," Pollock said Monday.

The sodium cyanide trap, called an M-44, is intended to attract livestock predators, such as coyotes. Small metal tubes stick out of the ground, about a thumb's length, and shoot a pellet.

Pollock's attorney, Joel Ban, contends that federal employees were negligent by placing the M-44 close to a public road.

"You can't be putting these things directly on a road," Ban said Monday. "Not just a pet but potentially a child could get into it as well."

An investigation by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food conducted for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the M-44 was placed along a "utility trail" with power lines -- not a true road. Federal law requires the devices be placed 50 feet from a road or pathway.

"Jenna started gagging, frothing and then threw up," said Pollock, who lives in Roosevelt and works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"I saw the M-44 and I knew immediately what it was. ... She died in my arms about 90 seconds after she was poisoned," Pollock said.

Pollock had a headache and a metallic taste in his mouth as he carried Jenna back to his truck, Ban said in a statement about the filing of the federal claim Monday.

Pollock said he hasn't been back to the place where Jenna died. An avid hunter, he said the dog's death changed the way he views the area, which he describes as popular for many types of recreation.

"This was traumatic for me," he said. "It's not just something that I've lost in losing Jenna. It takes public land away from the public and gives it to a private individual that raises cattle or sheep," he said.

A month after Jenna died, state investigators said there was a warning posted within eight feet of the device. Pollock said he saw no sign within 25 feet of the M-44, as required by law.

The M-44 was on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management near Bruff Reservoir, 15 miles southwest of Vernal.

Ban said the notice of claim was mailed to U.S. Department of Agriculture offices in Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City on Monday. "Until we can see who and what we're talking about it wouldn't be appropriate to comment," said Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman with the USDA's Wildlife Services division.

If the federal government declines Pollock's claim for $100,000, he can sue. Ban said the government has up to six months to respond to the claim.

Earlier this year, advocacy groups filed a petition asking the EPA to ban sodium cyanide capsules and sodium fluoroacetate, or Compound 1080, saying the two poisons have killed California condors and other animals that feed on poisoned carcasses.

In 2005, 12,726 animals were killed by sodium cyanide, including 92 dogs and one bald eagle, according to Sinapu, a Colorado-based advocacy group for wolves and other predators. Sinapu is one of the groups asking the EPA to ban the poisons.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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