Fateful step leaves dog dead, owner angry
INCIDENTS OF STRAY VOLTAGE
Stray voltage has led to many electrocutions in the U.S. in recent years, including:
• Jodie Lane, a 30-year-old doctoral student at Columbia University in New York, was killed when she stepped on a service box lid while walking her two dogs in 2004. The current was reportedly transferred to her from the dogs, who survived. Her death triggered an investigation that led the state to adopt strict regulations on stray voltage.
• Cassius, a 1-year-old Boxer pup, died in 2005 when he stepped on top of a charged Boston sidewalk while walking with his 13-year-old owner. The city launched an investigation and found the utility, NStar, had removed a street light at the site but failed to take out underground wires.
• New York Post reporter Denise Buffa lost her 100-pound Italian mastiff, Mushy, in 2007 after the dog touched an electrified light pole in a Manhattan park located in Harlem.
• A Milwaukee family of former dairy farmers filed a suit last year against the utility WE Energies, alleging that low-level stray voltage caused reduced milk production in their 500 cows – and, ultimately, led to the farm's failure in 2005.
Dairy farmers throughout the country have fought stray voltage since the 1980s.
Stray voltage from sidewalk hydro plate delivers a deadly shock; 'it's completely irresponsible'
Jan 14, 2009 04:30 AM
Michele HenryPaola Loriggio STAFF REPORTER
SHe would have done anything to save his dying dog.
Without hesitating, Dusko Avramovic knelt on the slushy sidewalk early yesterday morning, pressing his lips to his Labradoodle named Mrak in a frantic attempt to deliver mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
"Anybody would do it for him," Avramovic, 55, said. "He was a wonderful dog, a member of the family.
"Out for a 2 a.m. walk with Avramovic and his son, Darjan, Mrak dropped to the ground, squealing in anguish after walking over a metal hydro plate in the sidewalk. He was instantly electrocuted.
The plate, at the foot of a bus shelter on Keele St, near Annette St., covers a junction box containing wires that feed traffic lights and other electrical equipment. It short-circuited, Hydro officials said yesterday, giving the plate an electric charge.
Avramovic also received a shock when he pulled the dog from the plate to perform CPR.
Mrak is the second canine fatality from an electric shock on a two-block stretch of Keele St.
The Avramovics can't understand how or why live charges of electricity are flowing unprotected beneath the footsteps of pets and pedestrians.
"It's completely irresponsible," said Darjan, 25. "There shouldn't be such mistakes like that. What would happen if a small child walked over it?"
Any stray voltage is unacceptable and potentially dangerous, Toronto Hydro spokesperson Blair Peberdy said yesterday. "We're approaching this (incident) as if there's no difference whether it's a pet or a person."
While the exact strength of the current that jolted through Mrak's body is unknown, experts said yesterday that such "stray" charges originating from junction boxes are unlikely to harm a human.
A combination of rubber-soled shoes and two-legged bodies are better at foiling electrical shocks than the potentially wet, salted feet of four-legged animals trudging through slush and snow.
In dogs, a small shock can have a profound effect, causing pulmonary edema – when the lungs fill with fluid – or heart failure, experts said. "Even a mild shock can have an impact on a big dog," said Chris O'Toole, a veterinarian with the Blue Cross Animal Hospital on Danforth Ave.
Junction box currents can come to life unexpectedly, Peberdy said, for a variety of reasons, such as the freeze-thaw cycle that Toronto has experienced over the past few weeks.
Hydro crews disabled the faulty box yesterday morning and officials will trace all the electrical feeds to determine what went wrong. It could take days.
It's a process Hydro has conducted before. It also launched a city-wide sweep for stray voltage late last year after a German Shepherd was electrocuted near a light pole in the Keele and Annette Sts. area in November. The sweep, which uses infrared cameras and visual inspections to identify stray voltage hot spots, will end in the next few weeks, Peberdy said.
The Toronto Humane Society yesterday blamed Hydro for not taking the risk seriously in the German Shepherd case, and said the company would have acted more diligently had the victim been human.
"No animal should be at risk of injury or death while simply enjoying a walk," spokesperson Ian McConachie said.Councillor Bill Saundercook (Parkdale-High Park) agreed, noting local residents are concerned about safety. He wants city officials to consider using sand on sidewalks instead of salt, which causes water to pool making for slushy walkways.
With files from Vanessa Lu
Dogs are better conductors than humans because they usually have at least two paws in contact with the ground, allowing the current to move through their body. What's more, they generally don't wear shoes (the booties some breeds wear could actually increase the risk of electrocution if they get soaked, since water is a great conductor). Dogs also pee on the ground, offering another conduit for electricity.
Humans, on the other hand, usually have only one foot on the ground when walking, which slows the current — as do our thick, rubber-soled shoes. But beware: metal-laced leashes can carry the current from the dog to its handler, as reportedly happened five years ago in a tragic New York case.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Don't put booties, metal collars or metal leashes on your dog.
Also, keep away from:
Street and traffic lights
Fire call boxes
Construction hole covers
Dog electrocuted on west-end Toronto sidewalk
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 1:37 PM ET
The Canadian Press http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2009/01/13/dog-
Toronto Hydro says it "deeply regrets" the death of a dog that was electrocuted while out walking with its owner in the city's west end early Tuesday.
The five-year-old Labrador-poodle mix stepped on a metal ground plate that had electricity charging through it.
The metal plate is embedded in the sidewalk and is a fixture that is extremely common on the streets of the city.
Firefighters were unable to revive the dog when called to the scene at Keele and Annette streets about 2 a.m.
Toronto Hydro says power to a nearby hydro pole has been disconnected as crews test overhead and underground structures in the area.
The utility says the inspection includes taking infrared readings to detect stray voltage, as well as visual inspections of equipment.
Toronto Hydro says there does not appear to be a link between this incident and one last November in the same area in which another dog died after reportedly being hit with stray voltage from a hydro pole.
Dog electrocuted on Toronto sidewalk
By DON PEAT, Sun Media
A family is mourning the loss of their Labrador-Poodle cross after he was electrocuted during an early morning walk.
Out for a 2 a.m. walk near Keele and Annette Sts, just south of Dundas St., the owner's son watched in horror as his almost seven-year-old Labradoodle named Mrak dropped to the ground and went into medical distress after stepping on a metal plate at the base of a hydro pole, Toronto Police said.
Staff Sgt. Mary Shaw said firefighters and paramedics worked for 20 minutes to revive the dog but he died at the scene.
Crews from Toronto Hydro were brought in and grounded a live wire at the top of the pole, Shaw said.
Officers drove the owner home after the incident.
"Toronto Police have requested the hydro department to look at all the hydro poles in the area are safe," Const. Tony Vella said.
More troubling for dog owners in the west-end neighbourhood, a similar incident happened a few months ago.
Last November a German shepherd dog died from what appeared to be stray voltage in the same general area.
In that case, firefighters arrived to find the dog's owner kneeling beside his pet, outside 338 Keele St., just south of Dundas St. W. The animal had no vital signs and firefighters performed CPR without success.
Toronto Hydro crews are still investigating the cause of today's incident but say there does not appear to be a connection to the November dog death.
In a statement, Toronto Hydro expressed its sympathy to the dog's owners.
Hydro spokesman Karen Evans said crews have sectioned off the area and disconnected power to the pole.
"Toronto Hydro is conducting a thorough investigation to determine the cause," the utility stated. "Crews are testing overhead and underground structures in the area."
Officials stressed a city-wide inspection is underway to identify whether or not other stray voltage problems exist elsewhere.
The Toronto Humane Society welcomed the police recommendation that hydro check the area to find any other problems with wires.
"The sad thing is if a person was killed Toronto Hydro would have taken this much more seriously two months ago and looked into the matter more diligently to prevent future incident such as the one this morning," the society's senior communicator Ian McConachie said. "No animal should be at risk of injury or death while simply enjoying a walk.³ In 2007, Toronto Hydro launched a $1.3 billion infrastructure renewal program across the city that including checks for stray voltage.
"The investigation, and the safety of our distribution system, are the top priority," Toronto Hydro stated.