Tragically, a family's dog died last week shortly after swimming in the waters of Lake Ontario off Ryerson Park in NOTL. Exposure to blue-green algae was – and still is – the suspected cause of the pup's death.
Thankfully, tests of water samples taken about 24 hours later showed no presence of the algae.
That should not be a surprise. In a body of water the size of Lake Ontario, with its wind and wave action, the harmful algae was almost guaranteed to have been swept along elsewhere by the time it was tested.
What we cannot lose sight of is the fact a veterinarian from Upper Canada Animal Hospital diagnosed the dog as suffering from a textbook example of blue-green algae poisoning – and still believes that is what killed the animal.
It is vital that residents and visitors keep in mind that the algae has not been ruled out as the cause of death – it just was not present by the time tests were done. There is a big difference.
As well, we are concerned with how the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake reacted in posting signs warning people about the algae. About 24 hours after the fatal incident, signs were attached to the backs of four park benches, but Not near the two entrances to the beach. As a result, several adults, pets and children missed the signs and were swimming. Neighbours cautioned them, put up their own signs, and in one case hosed down a family who was concerned about exposure.
The next day, about 48 hours after the dog's death, after pleas on social media and elsewhere, signs were finally posted at the beach entrance. That's simply not good enough.
Now, finally, long-promised “educational” signs are up in the park and elsewhere on the lakefront warning that the water is not tested and urging people to use caution.
The town has now got it right, but why did it take so long?