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Veterinary clinic, farmer say their animals unaffected

Train derailment aftermath
Bedonna Erdlen, practice manager at Cranberry Veterinary Hospital, holds up Bella the clinic cat in 2021. Erdlen cautioned animal lovers Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, about relying on their news feeds for information after a post made the rounds about a dog in Mars suffering the effects of chemicals from the Feb. 3 train derailment in Ohio. Butler Eagle File Photo

A post that went viral locally showing a brown dog named Charlie who supposedly lives in Mars tugged at the heartstrings of pet lovers, as it reported he suffered from vinyl chloride poisoning as a result of the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

But a comment on the post by Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch, a pet rescue organization, near the derailment refuted the veracity of the post, saying the only way to test for vinyl chloride in a pet’s system would be through a necropsy, which would be conducted after the animal’s death.

Bedonna Erdlen, practice manager at Cranberry Township Veterinary Hospital, said she regrets that someone created a post showcasing “Charlie” and his alleged illness.

“The last thing we want is mass hysteria created from a Facebook post that doesn’t have the proper information,” Erdlen said.

She said many clients called the veterinary office on Feb. 6 with concerns about the affects on their pets of the vinyl chloride released in the derailment, which happened Feb. 3.

Since that time, no pets have been seen or treated for unusual symptoms or any illnesses that veterinarians think might have resulted from the derailment, located about 25 miles to the northwest, Erdlen said.

She said the post described Charlie’s symptoms as being limp and having digestive issues, which Erdlen said could be from many other canine maladies.

“The biggest issue in our area is Lyme disease. With Lyme, you can see limping,” Erdlen said. “The best thing you can do for your pet if it experiences gastrointestinal symptoms or limping is to take it to a licensed veterinarian and have it diagnosed.”

She said no test exists for vinyl chloride exposure in animals at this time.

“There is a lot of misinformation spread on Facebook,” Erdlen said.

In a longer post to its own Facebook page, Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch said it consulted with many veterinarians before posting that the viral post about Charlie was false.

“It is very, very important that we all try to remain calm, fact check all posts, and only share reputable information. It is especially important for those of us in the impact zone, who only want to do the right thing via factual reporting. We are all concerned and understand that in uncertain times, misinformation can easily spread,” the Darlington-based animal rescue said in its Facebook post. “We do not mean to sound critical of anyone, but we do want to ease the fears of pet parents in the area who are rightfully concerned.

“Lyme disease, bordetella and various respiratory illnesses are common in dogs and are possible culprits for symptomatic dogs, and seeing a vet is important. If we hear reliable information from the veterinary community about risks related to our companion animals, we will share the information promptly,” the post said.

Farmer reports animals are unaffected

Rachel Wagoner of Darlington, Beaver County, manages the 500-acre Tall Pines Farm with her husband, Chris.

Because the farm is on the cusp of the evacuation zone, the Wagoners brought their sheeps’ guard dogs in the house when they learned of the derailment.

While they did have some initial concern for their 50 to 60 sheep and 30 beef cattle, Rachel Wagoner was happy to report Thursday that no animals on her farm suffered any apparent ill effects from the nearby derailment.

Audubon speaks to safety of birds

Rachel Handel, communications director at the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, said there’s no reason to believe there will be an impact on birds.

“We do not believe there will be any impact on birds here in Western Pennsylvania,” Handel said. “Generally, the birds that are here do not move that many miles from their home-base area.”

She said state and local environmental agencies are testing the derailment site.

Regarding the water consumed by songbirds, Handel said the watershed at the derailment site runs to the west.

“We do not believe there would be any possible contaminants that would flow from that site into our area,” she said.

The animal experts advise pet owners and bird lovers to get information from reliable, scientific or legitimate news sources.

Rachel Wagoner's son Wyatt, 3, holds a lamb. Wagoner resides in Darlington, Beaver County, on the edge of the evacuation zone declared after the Feb. 3 train derailment in nearby East Palestine, Ohio. Submitted Photo

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