The Independent London Newspaper
24th March 2019

My dog died after eating sweets left on street in West Hampstead, says devastated pet owner

    Alessandra Bester with Coco

    Published: 11 February, 2016

    A FAITHFUL labrador trained to help a young autistic boy is believed to have died after eating discarded jelly sweets in the street, according to its distraught owner. 

    Alessandra Bester, who lives in West Hampstead, initially thought four-year-old Coco may have died from eating rat poison in Hampstead Ceme­tery.

    But she said yesterday (Wednesday) the “rat story is gossip” and she wanted to be “clear” as people were getting “in a panic”.

    Ms Bester said lab results pointed towards liver failure in the service dog on Friday caused by ingesting a sugar substitute often found in packs of gummy sweets.

    She said: “My dog most likely died from xylitol running the liver down for some time. This is artificial sweetener used in jelly sweets and gums as well as many other human food products. I would urge dog owners to be mindful walking the dogs on pavements and pay attention to what the dog is picking on.”

    She added: “The constant pollution of junk around the streets and people not taking responsibility for their leftovers, it is indeed a big hazard for dogs that can pick up anything off the ground and get seriously sick. Chocolate, caffeine, onion and garlic, some nuts, xylitol and some packaging can be toxic to dogs.”

    She said it was hard to come to terms with the loss of a pet but “even harder when it’s a service dog and someone depends on it”, adding: “Coco was a wonderful family member and excellent therapy dog to my son, who is autistic, and to myself as well as many other people.”

    An autism service dog is one that is trained to help an autistic person to maintain an independent life. 

    Ms Bester added: “Hampstead Cemetery is not the place where she could have been contaminated. Rat poison can be treated with dogs.”

    The Friends of Hampstead Cemetery recently warned people on its website about irresponsible dog owners allowing their pets “to wander uncontrolled, fouling gravestones, making it messy and dangerous to strim the grass and also disturbing visitors attending their graves”. 



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