Issue of dog poo in Malibu

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    Thousands of seals and sea lions are dying off the Los Angeles coastline, in the most alarming manner and rate than in recorded history, according to Peter Wallerstein of the Whale Rescue team. Most affected are the calving mothers who convulse, miscarry and then die on the beach. Nidia and I have personally witnessed three such cases, and heard of two others, all within only one linear mile of our Malibu Beach (Puerco). There is strong scientific evidence presented by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to support the belief that the cause is the current canine distemper viral epidemic in Los Angeles County being transmitted to the ocean mammals by the dogs brought to the beaches to defecate and urinate.

    “Thousands of seals (Phoca caspica) died in the Caspian Sea from April to August 2000. Lesions characteristic of morbillivirus infection were found in tissue specimens from dead seals. Canine distemper virus infection was identified by serologic examination, reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, and sequencing of selected P gene fragments. These results implicate canine distemper virus infection as the primary cause of death.” Dispatch, “Emerging Infectious Diseases: Mass Die-Off of Caspian Seals Caused by Canine Distemper Virus,” CDC Vol. 6, No. 6 (Nov-Dec., 2000).

    We have also observed three dead pelicans within the same timeframe and vicinity. Not in the 22-plus years we have walked the beaches here have we seen such intense and frequent wildlife deaths and sickness.

    Even if the reader refuses to accept the scientific truth, does the approach by loose dogs to the seals, sea lions, pelicans and other beings, including children who are on the beach, help, hinder or frighten the sick and dying animal or small unprotected child?

    Look down the beach yourself and see. Ahhh, Malibu, where dog poop (and pee) meets the sea.

    Sam Birenbaum

    Editor’s note: According to biologists at the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum, the recent outbreaks of marine mammal illness in Central and Southern California has been caused by domoic acid from marine algae. Marine mammal tissues tested negative for canine distemper virus, which produces different symptoms than that of domoic acid poisoning.