I was a few miles above South America, flying on American Airlines flight 2110 (which was late, due to the airline’s inability to have the aircraft in proper working order before we left—local manager Claude Rains was shocked and had all of the usual suspects rounded up and sent off), and pulled this letter to the editor from the Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio.
Even with my Homer Simpson-like abilities in Spanish (“May I have a beer, please” is translated as “MAY I HAVE A CERVEZA, PLEASE”), I could tell that this article was about dealing with stray dogs with the abhorrent practice of poisoning by strychnine.
Strychnine is a potent neurological poison. Death from strychnine poisoning painful , prolonged (several hours), dramatic, and difficult to watch (don’t click if you are squeamish). The following description is from Wikipedia:
Ten to twenty minutes after exposure, the body’s muscles begin to spasm, starting with the head and neck. The spasms then spread to every muscle in the body, with nearly continuous convulsions, and get worse at the slightest stimulus. The convulsions progress, increasing in intensity and frequency until the backbone arches continually. Death comes from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the neural pathways that control breathing, or by exhaustion from the convulsions. The subject will die within 2–3 hours after exposure. At the point of death, the body “freezes” immediately, even in the middle of a convulsion, resulting in instantaneous rigor mortis.
Of late, Chile has been considered one of the success stories of Latin America. Generally–but often mistakedly– we associate improved social conditions with better treatment of those less who are less able to protect themselves. Cruelty and callousness are contagious, and hard to eradicate. Strychnine poisoning is not the way to control the very serious problem of stray dogs and the diseases associated with them: rabies and serious injury from bites.