Dog deaths spur move to make antifreeze taste bad

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 1:43am

The tragic deaths of Sam and Jessie, a pair of dogs in East Tennessee who both fell victim to antifreeze poisoning, could keep some of their canine comrades from suffering a similar fate.

Legislation has already passed the state Senate and is pending in the House to add a bittering agent to antifreeze to make the sweet tasting and smelling liquid unpalatable for dogs and children.

The bill resulted from the sad story of Haley Ham, an 11-year old girl from Sevierville, and Sam, her golden retriever.

Haley and Sam were best friends, going everywhere together, recalled Ginni Ham, Haley’s mother.

“They were very, very, very close,” Ginni Ham said, standing next to Haley who was too shy to speak. “She referred to him as her little brother. He was just the most loving dog you’ve ever met in your life.”

But the duo of Haley and Sam were tragically broken apart.

One day last year, a person, who is unknown at this point, concocted a stew of onions, chocolate, rawhide and antifreeze, came onto the Ham’s property, and fed the tainted gruel to Sam, Ginni Ham said.

For three days, Sam suffered in a veterinary hospital before having to be put down.

“Haley was heartbroken, and it was devastating for us as a family,” Ginni Ham said.

The motivations of the unknown perpetrator are not clear.

Soon after though, matters became worse as Jessie, a black hound that did not belong to the family but often accompanied Haley when she would play outside also died as a result of antifreeze poisoning.

Less than a teaspoon of ethylene glycol in antifreeze can cause nausea, vomiting, depression of the central nervous system, heart and kidney failure, seizures, coma, and death, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

At the time of the dogs’ deaths, Haley Ham did not know what antifreeze was.

Some research on the Internet instructed the youngster about the substance and how a handful of states were passing legislation adding a bittering agent to antifreeze to keep pets from ingesting it.

She began writing letters to politicians and starting online and written petitions in a movement to have the bittering agent – called denatonium benzoate – added to antifreeze.

“After he died, she wrote everybody from the president down,” said James Ham, Haley’s father.

A letter to the Ham’s state Senator, Raymond Finney (R-Maryville), finally did begin the process of trying to get Tennessee’s law changed.

And the Haley Ham Act of 2008 unanimously passed the state Senate this year.

But Tuesday in the House, with the Ham family watching the Agriculture Committee debate the measure, the bill was delayed for two weeks after some lawmakers raised questions about its necessity.

Those concerns arose from the willingness of the antifreeze industry to add the bittering agent.

“If manufacturers already want to do this, then why are we putting into the code what they already want to do?” asked state Rep. Eric Swafford (R-Pikeville).

Leighann McCollum, the state’s director of the Humane Society of the United States, said antifreeze manufacturers have been trying at the federal level for years to pass a bill requiring a bittering agent to give them liability protection.

But McCollum explained that large environmental groups have blocked the antifreeze manufacturers’ efforts as a result of wanting to study the possible environmental problems that the bittering agent may cause.

Having been blocked at the federal level, the antifreeze industry is not trying to pass identical laws in each state and have those states mandate the bittering agent. Tennessee’s bill is the “model” legislation, McCollum said.

“They want it to be consistent,” McCollum said.

Swafford was not convinced.

“They want us to mandate something that takes some liability off of them because they have concerns that what you’re wanting them to do might be harmful to the environment,” Swafford said.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Janis Sontany (D-Nashville), was delayed so the Agriculture Committee could hear testimony from the antifreeze industry. The legislation would cost 2-cents per gallon of antifreeze.

Filed under: City News
By: SpincycleGB on 12/31/69 at 6:00

This is a great idea, especially for pet lovers. Another important issue here is the schmohead to disregards animal life and the love/warmth the provide to a family so much that he/she poisons an animal. That person should be fed a stew of onions, rawhide, and antifreeze. That person doesn't deserve the chocolate.

By: serr8d on 12/31/69 at 6:00

There's two formulations of coolants (based on propylene glycol (PG) and ethylene glycol (EG)), and individual car manufacturers can have different specifications for their own cars, making for half a dozen or more types on the market. PG is supposedly less 'toxic'...but that's because an animal has to ingest more before succumbing to poisoning. And the cost is much higher. And the embittering agent? Denatonium Benzoate (a Carboxylic acid)is the 'world's bitterest known substance', and is already used in some pesticides and household cleaners to make them unpalatable to kids and animals. And it's used as a denaturing additive to methanol and ethanol, so people won't drink 'em.Oh, and the lethal dose of Denatonium Benzoate reported in rats is 584 mg/kg. Compared to, say, 50 mg/kg for nicotine, and 1270 mg/kg in male rats, 730 mg/kg in female rats for THC (marijuana).

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Somebody caught trying to poison neighbors' pets should at least be forced to drink a bottle of very strong laxative. Then they should make restitution to the extent that's possible.This bittering agent may be a solution, although it does nothing to treat the real problem, jerks who think that an animal straying on to their property gives them the right to kill it.

By: TharonChandler on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dogs killed by Anti-freeze? Alright, I'm shopping for a ticket to Beijing, where at least they consume the Dogs if they are gonna kill one. Is that a bad joke to make a good point? I'd say it is a bad joke, anyway. Growing up near a corner store, in a small town, I have seen "accidental" toxic poisoning of muts and it was not pretty."Going to Beijing

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

So.... sounds like the real issue here is "leash laws not being enforced" Most humans will not go to extremes such as this unless provoked. No one is going to come into your backyard just because they happened to be driving by and saw your Chihuahua sitting on a back porch. Usually the said individual has been provoked...your dog came into their yard, and either did things or "spooked" that home owner. I've been on both sides of this issue. The solution is this new item by's the "fenceless" system, but you don't have to dig up your yard or patio to install it. It works by radio wave distance. And the distances are adjustable. And it works on our beagle, who, to our disappointment, has a shoe fetish...and likes to steal neighbors shoes. Now she has the collar on and all is well. Seriously, if you're going to own a pet, it comes with some responsibility. And if you read this article, the victim's owner was negligent in many many ways.

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

and btw, you can add almost any prescription drug (in mass) to canned dogfood, plus masked w/peanut butter, and bring about the death of many different animals. The antifreeze idea is easity usurped in this instance. Try using your time another way. Hey, that leash law idea would be a first. And.... speaking of.... around mid December, there were 4 beautiful homeless German Shepherds laying on the grass near the entry to 100 Oaks Mall parking, in plain sight, and not one person stopped to assist them. They sat there for over an hour. Like I said, no leash law enforcement. Heck, there's a Petsmart RIGHT THERE, for gosh sakes.....

By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

But McCollum explained that large environmental groups have blocked the antifreeze manufacturers’ efforts as a result of wanting to study the possible environmental problems that the bittering agent may cause. *****************************************See how wacko these people really are. Like anti-freeze poses no threat to the environment by it self.

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

id, you're off topic just to parrot Rushisms.Girlie girl, if the neighbor's dog takes a crap in my yard I may not like it but I'm not a twisted piece of manure that considers painful death by poisining appropriate retribution.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The simple answer is to just use the propylene glycol. If you remove the other formula, all other issues go away. Propylene glycol is already used in some food/drug products, and should provide no problems from a “poisoning” standpoint. It also works very well as a coolant. I have used it for years with out any issues of performance.

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Did you stop girlie?

By: Time for Truth on 12/31/69 at 6:00

'poisoning' oops

By: Vandy1975 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

The evil person who poisoned the dog should likewise be put to a painful and permanent sleep, but why does this mean we have to change the formula for antifreeze? It's delicious just as is.

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 6:00

stop what? My dog is "leashed" with Petsafe. As for the menacing dogs of the past, I complained (electronically) and said dogs are gone. If you don't file grievances electronically thru Metro, no one takes you seriously. Plus, eventually Metro takes care of it. If you notice menacing dogs, chances are, you're not the only one. And those other victims may not be so forgiving of said violators. That's just the way it is. "Dixie" says "hi" or "woof" if you prefer.... LOL

By: tiphani on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Dixie huh...

By: tiphani on 12/31/69 at 6:00

to answer your question gd, no she didn't...

By: tiphani on 12/31/69 at 6:00

stop to help the pups

By: tiphani on 12/31/69 at 6:00


By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I didn't think so. Apparently she observed them for over an hour though.

By: tiphani on 12/31/69 at 6:00


By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I don’t understand why those stupid dogs weren’t obeying the damn leash law!!!!!! Don’t they understand what they are supposed to do????

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It's obvious that those dogs were adopted and raised by homosexuals.

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Great, here come a bunch of anti gay dogs on leash laws!! Man that is just going to start a whole new internet porn site!!!!